Fiserv Inc. is demonstrating its commitment to expansion of its mobile banking services through its purchase of longtime partner Mobile Commerce Ltd.
The acquisition, one of three Fiserv closed this week, puts the Mobile Pay platform under Fiserv's control. Mobile Pay allows access to transaction details, bill payment and cash transfers through mobile devices.
"People are going to access what they want the way they want to do it, and we believe that owning a mobile platform today is very important," said Jeffrey Yabuki, Fiserv's president and chief executive officer.
Fiserv said there will be no layoffs as a result of the acquisition and that M-Com's chief executive, Adam Clark, will be joining Fiserv.
Fiserv, of Brookfield, Wis., also bought the credit union service organization Credit Union On-Line Inc. and Maverick Network Solutions, a Wilmington, Del., company that provides prepaid and reward services.
The acquisition prices were not disclosed.
Fiserv developed its Mobile Money offering with M-Com in 2008.
"They said: 'You know, mobile is important enough. Oh gosh, we are locked at the hip with M-Com. That's the obvious way to go,' " said Bart Narter, a senior vice president with the market research firm Celent.
In the short term, industry watchers said, the acquisition eliminates a revenue-sharing model that Fiserv was paying to M-Com as a part of its Mobile Money sales.
M-Com already generates a majority of Mobile Pay sales through Fiserv.
"This gives [Fiserv] what they want and how they want it," said George Tubin, senior research director at TowerGroup in Needham, Mass.
Tubin said integration around banking channels is essential to Fiserv.
"The back-end systems [are] just absolutely critical in banking," Tubin said. That is, "making sure all the channels access similar data sets and are presenting information in a similar way."
However, Tubin said, there could be obstacles to Mobile Money's integration with Fiserv's other offerings.
Fiserv is one of the largest vendors of its kind, and it could be difficult to combine a new technology with that of its many other products.
"Trying to get a new product into the mix, and making everything work together, is a challenge," he said.
The move fits with Fiserv's long-term strategy, said Aaron McPherson, a research manager for payments at IDC Financial Insights.
Banks, afraid of opening themselves up to fraud, have not taken to the idea of truly mobile platforms, he said. Because of these concerns, many banks simply offer watered-down mobile version of their web sites instead of mobile banking services that take full advantage of the capabilities of consumers' handsets.
"I think part of the confusion is that most banks have not implemented mobile payments," McPherson said. "There are a lot of bankers that would like to do more, but their lawyers are tapping them on the shoulder, saying: 'Too risky.' "
Banks also don't want to overshadow more lucrative products, such as credit and debit cards, with a cheaper mobile payment option that works through the automated clearing house system, he said.
As for Fiserv's other acquisitions, Yabuki said each serves different aspects of the company's long-term strategy.
"We bought these two to really bolster the value proposition that we can bring to the market," he said, "and do it faster, by the very nature of our scale."
Yabuki said that the Federal Reserve Board's proposed cap on debit interchange could make prepaid cards increasingly vital for retail banks, and the Maverick purchase will help Fiserv serve banks.
The Fed's proposal will "serve as a catalyst for financial institutions to think about prepaid differently," Yabuki said.