Malaysia: how a new online bill payment service will help drive the shift to e-Payments

A new bill payment service, JomPAY, is quickly gaining popularity in Malaysia.

MyClear’s Peter Schiesser reveals the reasons behind the launch of new bill payment service, JomPAY, and why it is quickly gaining popularity in Malaysia.

It was early-2013 when Peter Schiesser sat down with the Deputy Governor of Malaysia’s Central Bank. It was a conversation which has helped steer his every decision.

“He said, ‘Pete, you're not here to just do incremental improvement are you?’ I said ‘no’… and he said, ‘Because I need you to do bold change’.”

Bold change encapsulates the two-and-a-half years since that discussion, when the Australian-born Schiesser – a former ANZ executive – was appointed Managing Director of Bank Negara Malaysia subsidiary MyClear (Malaysian Electronic Clearing Corporation).

During that time, Bank Negara has rolled out a number of reforms aimed at encouraging greater take-up of e-Payment services. MyClear plays a key role, building and operating the country’s payments infrastructure.

“The central bank here has a clearer vision than many central banks in Asia about what is possible and how electronic payments help your country to move forward. They knew a few things were OK but a lot of things also needed fixing. So their task to me was to really rip into that and make the necessary changes to help advance the economy of Malaysia,” Schiesser says.

JomPAY: Malaysia’s online bill payment service

Malaysia remains a cash and cheque dominated society. Bill payments made via the internet, mobile or at ATMs totalled 2.4 transactions per capita in 2014 compared to more than 10 transactions per capita in Australia.

A key reason has been the lack of a national bill payment system. Companies were forced to strike individual connections with Malaysia’s 45 banks if they wanted to offer every customer the ability to pay their bills online – a costly and cumbersome process.

“Instead, we had billers connecting to just two or three of the larger banks and ignoring all the rest – billers weren't getting what they wanted and consumers (unless they banked with the big banks) weren't getting access to bill payments,” Schiesser says.

That changed in April with the official launch of JomPAY – a system inspired by Australia’s BPAY. BPAY was first launched in 1997 and while it has attracted global attention, few countries have been able to bring together the often competing interests of billers and banks.

“Having gone through it, it does take a rare alignment of the stars and moons to pull this off,” Schiesser says.

“We're trying to find a balance between sufficient reward for the banks while getting this low-cost to make it a viable proposition for the billers. The banks were our toughest customers in this regard but we managed to corral them together, although it was no easy feat.”

Similar to BPAY, JomPAY has also been built with a central server, which allows changes to be rolled out to all banks simultaneously, and for billers to receive immediate notification of customer payments.

Schiesser says early take-up of the new service has been strong with 160 biller codes connected and almost every bank in the country on board. The shift to JomPAY is expected to drastically cut the estimated RM2.7 billion ($960 million) and RM113 million ($40 million) businesses incur annually for cash and cheque handling respectively, according to the Central Bank.

Bank Negara is also pushing Malaysia’s banks to make JomPAY available via their approximately 12,000 ATMs and 2,700 self-service internet kiosks given those channels remain important for those without access to internet banking.

e-Payments and beyond

The low-cost local debit scheme, MyDebit, is overseen and promoted by MyClear, which also has responsibility for other products including the direct credit Interbank GIRO service and e-commerce payment service FPX. Schiesser says both have recently been upgraded into world-class systems.

Earlier this year, the Central Bank cut card interchange fees in an effort to broaden the acceptance of payment cards, especially by smaller merchants.

“It’s a step-wise reduction over a number of years. Some of those excess profits in interchange are being channelled into infrastructure development, particularly terminal deployment which is still low in this country.”

The total number of terminals is expected to more than triple from 240,000 to 800,000 by 2020.

While Malaysia was one of the first countries to issue chip and pin cards a decade ago, debit card usage is still in its infancy. However, the banks are currently shifting to the latest EMV standard and reissuing cards to allow contactless payments, which is expected to underpin a surge in popularity.

“It's definitely lovely to do a job like this where you can affect so many people,” Schiesser says. “But more generally I just enjoy working in Malaysia – even with the small staff we have you can make a huge impact to their learning and help them advance and leave a legacy behind. That's very satisfying.”

Source : BPAY Banter / 127 August 2015