Rest In Peace Paym
As of 7th March 2023, Pay.UK announced that Paym, the mobile payments service, is closing permanently to customers. RIP Paym. The Paym service was developed by the UK Payments Council and participating banks and building societies, including Natwest/Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Bank, Santander, Cumberland Building Society, and Halifax. It was launched in 2014. Unfortunately, Paym didn’t quite make its 10th birthday, a short life for such a promising mobile payment method.
More than nine out of ten current accounts in the UK supported Paym. It was effectively a ubiquitous service open to all banked consumers. Nationwide Building Society joined Paym in June 2015, followed by Metro Bank and Tesco Bank. The underlying network technology was provided by VocaLink, which became a Mastercard company a few years after the launch of the Paym service. The name "Paym" was stylised in the above logo, and it was meant to be a play on the words "Pay 'em", or "Pay them", and "Pay M" alluding to "Pay Mobile".
At the end of 2022, the service had more than 5.8 million registered users and had sent over £2.6 billion since its launch in 2014. However, there was a collective decision to close the service last September by Pay.UK and the fifteen UK banks and building societies that operated Paym. That decision was made in response to falling numbers of transactions and the lack of customers signing up to become new users. Personally, I believe there was a lack of awareness of the service. Marketing of the Paym service to its customers was almost non-existent. Consumer may be fully aware of the faster payments service but didn’t know they could use a mobile telephone number to send money in real-time to their friends. Now they need to revert to a bank sort code and a bank account number to achieve the same real-time bank transfer via their mobile payment banking app - exactly where the Paym service used to be available.
Like many product innovations, when designed by a committee, there is often design compromise, and the value proposition is diluted. The Paym service was implemented in different ways with different names by different banks, for example, Barclays version started out as “Pingit” but then morphed into Paym, a free to consumer person to person service and often used to pay small businesses that also were part of the Paym network. The service was typically buried in the consumer’s mobile banking app and unexplained. Consumers were blissfully unaware of the Paym service, what it did or what was its value proposition. The marketing of the Paym service was not centralised from an industry perspective or targeted to a specific consumer segment. This meant that the marketing of Paym was distributed and left to the individual banks which decided to pay zero attention to the service and allocated zero budget to its marketing and building awareness.
This is not the case when we look at other markets of similar mobile payment services – where there has been strong consumer awareness, enormous success, and incremental usage, such as in Sweden (Swish), Norway (Vipps), Denmark (Mobile Pay), Poland (Blik), USA (Venmo), India (Paytm), WeChatPay (China) and AliPay (China) to name a few. Unfortunately, the UK banks never showed an interest collectively or individually in making Paym a success despite the widespread evidence of mobile payment adoption in other markets.
A great British invention comes to an end. Fortunately, we can still claim to have invented the toothbrush (William Addis, 1780), sewage systems (Joseph Bazalgette, 1865) and World Wide Web (Tim Berners-Lee, 1989). Paym (2014 to 2023). RIP.
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