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Categorized | Financial

Powa in card reader deal with SA bank

Posted on September 30, 2012

A British challenger to Square, the system that enables credit card payments with a smartphone, has signed its first large multimillion pound deal with one of South Africa’s biggest banks.

First National Bank, the retail and corporate division of First Rand, one of the country’s big four banks, will use Powa Technologies’ card reader and software to replace its existing payment infrastructure for an annual fee.

    While Square, created by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey and valued at $3.25bn, sells to small traders new to using cards, Powa’s product, called mPowa, targets existing users through banks and retailers.

    Dan Wagner, chief executive of Powa, said banks and mobile telephone companies were looking for a way to allow mobile payments while retaining control.

    His system, which unlike Square works with cards that use a Chip and PIN, is compliant with Level One PCI, the highest security standard.

    “I take the view that Visa and MasterCard are not going away,” he said. “Google will not be my provider of credit.”

    “We are a white label solution. Square is a closed system, we are Android,” he added, referring to the ability of anyone to write software for the operating system created by Google.

    Mr Wagner, a technology entrepreneur who has spent around £8m of his own money developing the product, said it was negotiating with 15 brands, including at least one British bank. Powa already runs ecommerce websites for many stores.

    He has already attracted the ire of Square, whose lawyers in June sent a letter asking him to stop using an image of a hand holding the card reader similar to Square’s publicity shot.

    As well as a dongle that plugs into a phone, he produces a chip reader that connects via Bluetooth to send a receipt by text or email to the cardholder’s phone.

    Users enter their pin as with existing systems. Mr Wagner said it could be used by those with mobile sales forces, such as the AA or Avon, the cosmetics company.

    Informa, the business information group, uses mPowa to take payment at trade shows.

    In September, Square closed a $200m fundraising and takes $8bn of payments annually.

    A 0.25 per cent fee per transaction is levied by mPowa on top of what the card services provider charges, usually around 2.5 per cent.

    FNB operates in six southern African countries and is about to enter Angola, Ghana and Nigeria. The company, which had sales in 2011 of R25.8bn and 7.1m customers in South Africa, declined to comment.