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August 15, 2017updated 29 Jul 2022 6:42am

WhatsApp Payments chases WeChat’s success…and financial services should be worried

WhatsApp is set to add payments to its app, with the messaging giant looking to replicate the success of WeChat in China.

By Ellie Burns

WhatsApp is reportedly set to introduce payments and money transfer services to its popular messaging app, marking a bold entry into the financial services sector.

Pictures of a “Welcome to WhatsApp Payments” screen were first revealed by the WABetaInfo blog, suggesting that the next WhatsApp update could support payments.

According to Ian Bradbury, WhatsApp’s foray into the finance may be a smart move – especially when taking into account the success of rival WeChat. The Fujitsu UK&I CTO said:

“WhatsApp’s apparent entry into the financial services sector mirrors a trend that we’re already seeing taking off in China, where peer to peer payments in social networks such as WeChat have become really popular. The success of platforms like WeChat seems to be tied to their ability to hold consumer attention, through the integration of third party apps and brands; consumers see WeChat as being the mobile digital platform to manage their life.

“Like its parent company Facebook, WhatApp is seeking to copy the success of WeChat with this new functionality, although currently neither platform has the same sort of hold over its consumers.

Of course, WhatsApp’s move into payments is not a first for owner Facebook, with its Messenger app offering peer-to-peer payments since 2015. Apple is also reportedly looking to launch it’s own peer-to-peer payments offering for its iMessenger app, with the roll out of iOS 11 expected to bring this new functionality.

However, as the Facebooks and Apples of the world look to offer financial offerings like money transfer, spare a thought for the traditional lenders and financial institutions struggling to keep up with these ‘disruptors’.

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“The success of WeChat offers an important lesson for financial services in the UK: hold the consumer’s digital attention and payments will naturally follow. Consumers are digitally adventurous and are keen to use services that offer the greatest convenience, whoever might provide them,” said Mr Bradbury.

“Financial services firms must continually offer the latest digital services for their consumers and seek to fit into their lives – or they may very well find themselves losing market share to new digital disruptors like WhatsApp.”

It remains to be seen when UK consumers can start sending money via WhatsApp, but it looks like the the service will first be trialed and rolled out in India. The messaging giant is trialing bank to bank transfers with UPI, or Unified Payments Interface, with the Reserve Bank of India, which seems to confirm that India will be the first demographic for WhatsApp’s new payment service.

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