After facing multiple stumbling blocks, Synch’s app may finally be hitting the Irish market later this year.
Synch Payments, the mobile payment app venture being launched by the major Irish banks to take on Revolut and N26, has been approved by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) – but with certain conditions.
A joint venture between AIB, Bank of Ireland, Permanent TSB and KBC, Synch has been in the works for several years and was first alerted to the CCPC in January 2021.
The idea behind Synch is to take on emerging neobanks such as Revolut and N26 that provide more digital-friendly banking and payment options. However, the project soon ran into trouble with the national competition authority.
In December, the CCPC launched a full investigation into Synch to determine if it meant “foreclosing potential new competitors from entering the market for the provision of banking products” by not allowing them to participate in the mobile payments service.
It was also concerned that the establishment of Synch could lead to the “stifling of innovation in mobile payments services”, either through the influence of the shareholding banks over the company’s decisions or through reduced incentive to develop other services.
Yippay for launch
With the green light from the CCPC, Synch may launch its Yippay app in the Irish market as soon as the end of this year, according to the Irish Times. But this may be postponed to 2023 if the timing is too close to the busy Christmas shopping season.
The CCPC clearance comes with certain conditions that the banks have committed to ahead of the app launch. This includes setting objective eligibility criteria for any other financial institutions that want to be part of the Synch Payments system, with set timelines for processing new applications.
“Synch will in due course also allow for interoperability by providing access to a software development kit component, which will allow licensees to embed certain mobile payments functionalities within their own apps,” the CCPC wrote in a statement.
The parties are to have a governance structure including independent board members to give Synch a greater level independence from the founding shareholders. There will also have to be “substantial safeguards” to prevent the exchange or disclosure of commercially sensitive information.
Synch managing director Inez Cooper told the Irish Times that this venture has the potential to “revolutionise” mobile payments in Ireland, with the option to make instant person-to-person payments using just contact details, irrespective of which bank a person uses.
“Over the past two years we’ve all witnessed the rapid growth in the mobile payments market throughout the country,” she added. “People have become increasingly comfortable paying for goods and services in shops and restaurants with a simple tap with their phone.”
It is not clear what KBC Ireland’s stake is going to be in Synch as it is one of two major banks exiting the Irish market this year, the other being Ulster Bank. Emerging neobanks such as Dutch fintech Bunq have their eyes on the customers these banks will leave behind.
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