CBW Bank Readies Launch of Real-Time Payments

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CBW Bank aims for nothing less than to reinvent the bank account.

The innovative Weir, Kansas bank (it was the original institution behind BankSimple and Moven, and partners with cryptocurrency firm Ripple Labs on cross-border payments) will formally launch a new payment tool called the ONE Card this quarter.

It offers something most banks can't, and which the Federal Reserve has begun nudging the industry to build: real-time payments.

To create this capability, $12 million-asset CBW has signed agreements with all the major U.S. debit networks for the ability to use their rails to instantly credit bank accounts.

If a customer wants immediate access to the funds from a check, a wire transfer or some other payment, she can get it.

"The way existing bank accounts are structured is not going to meet the needs of future consumers and what they want to do with their money," said Suresh Ramamurthi, chairman, CBW Bank. "There are times when, at 2:00 a.m., you need to pay someone."

CBW is currently offering the real-time payments through business clients. (The technology behind the project was built by Yantra Technologies, which Ramamurthi also runs.)

"We have a check casher using this to, strangely enough, put money back into a bank account after they cash your check," Ramamurthi said. "It makes no sense, right? But they have very high volume because lots of people don't want to deposit a check in their bank Friday evening, because they won't have the funds available until Monday or Tuesday. They go to a check casher and have the money put into the bank account in a minute."

An insurance company is using the ONE card to pay claims to people who need the money right away. (It may discount the amount it pays in exchange for the fast service.)

The ONE card account is also being used by a health insurance company to provide information about payments along with the payments themselves, to help explain what it's actually paying for (which often doesn't match what the patient was billed).

Setting up the agreements with the debit networks was a challenge of data and diplomacy. The networks each use a slightly different data format that the bank needed to accommodate.

The diplomacy came in the bank's relentless pursuit of the debit networks to get them to sign on. Some were more interested in this new use case for their payment technology than others.

"Nobody came to us and said, ‘Please do this because we really want to innovate,'" he said.

In the future, the bank plans to add analytics for risk management and market segmentation to the ONE account, as well as the ability to give online banking customers access to their entire transaction history.

"Did I ever eat at Olive Garden? You'll be able to find that," Ramamurthi said.

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