Paying by smartphone? New fintech app from JETCO to facilitate small money transfers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 April, 2016, 8:17pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 April, 2016, 8:45pm

Hong Kong has a new app that allows users to transfer money to other individuals over smartphones -- something that could be useful when divvying up a meal expense, or paying for small transactions.

Joint Electronic Teller Services (JETCO) on Tuesday launched a peer-to-peer inter-bank platform, a mobile application that enables cardholders of three local banks to transfer money to other individuals for free.

China CITIC Bank International and Shanghai Commercial Bank are offering the service while Wing Lung Bank will start in May. A total of 14 banks are expected to join the platform by the end of the first half of 2017, Angus Choi, JETCO chief executive officer, said.

Any individual with an account in a Hong Kong bank can be the money receiver, as long as they download the JETCO Pay P2P Collect app to their Android or iOS devices.

The launch of JETCO Pay P2P app follows last week’s debut of “O!ePay” of Octopus Cards Limited , which allows Octopus card users to transfer money to associates using the app.

The maximum capital for both apps is HK$3,000 per two days, a limit set by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority.

“The most unique feature of JETCO Pay is that users can transfer money without topping up cash to the platform in advance. It is not an electronic wallet,” Choi said, adding that the firm wants to develop Hong Kong’s mobile payment market and is seeking cooperation opportunities.

He said that JETCO had taken steps to ensure security, such as offering a dynamic PIN pad and a device verification function.

Wing Lung Bank head of retail banking Chung Siu-kuen said the bank, taking advantage of the JETCO app, is studying ways to allow clients to withdraw money from ATM machines without the use of physical bank cards.

JETCO is also in discussions with Macau regulators to expand the service to the territory offering cash transfers in patacas. There are no plans to offer the Macau service in yuan or US dollars, Choi said.

“Our next step is to add the peer-to-merchant service to this peer-to-peer platform, and enable clients to pay for online shopping,” Choi said.

Hong Kong has been conservative in financial technology in the past years despite the mushrooming of fintech in the mainland and elsewhere.

“There are too many rules and regulations in Hong Kong. It’s a problem left over from history. Investors, regulators, and companies can hardly walk even an inch in the fintech industry,” said Ronald Wan, chief executive at Partners Capital International.

Hongkongers are more skittish towards fintech compared with mainlanders owing to concerns over fraud, while the convenience of Hong Kong makes mobile service less necessary, Wan said.

He urged authorities to take steps to bolster the industry. “If you don’t relax the rules, local firms can hardly compete with mainland peers such as Alibaba or Tencent,” he said.

JETCO’s Choi expects the HKMA to relax the HK$3,000 payment restriction in the future.

However, Wan was less optimistic, saying regulators may hesitate to relax restrictions amid concerns over online fraud and other abuses, noting that other P2P lending platforms in Shenzhen are the subject of criminal investigations involving user activity.