Arriving from its home base Down Under, M-Com is a potential up-ender with its 2008 launch into the U.S.

The New Zealand-based mobile banking and payments platform vendor crashed the North American m-banking market earlier this year, unintimidated by an already established provider field and ready to showcase its service - BankAnywhere - which has already proven itself at some of the largest banks in both its native country and Australia.

It doesn't matter that M-Com's premiere (and premier) U.S. client, Washington Mutual, launched with a limited version of the platform, or that WAMU was later swallowed up by JPMorgan Chase. M-Com's debut pushed up the roadmap of expectations for robust feature sets like person-to-person payments and out-of-loop authentication - and showed a way to turn mobile banking into a self-contained revenue center.

Despite an unheard-of strategy to charge a AUS$2 monthly fee for the service, holding company ANZ National Bank was able to convert a substantial number of customers from primarily branch and call-center operations. That was keyed by BankAnywhere's functionality as a mobile Java app delivering payments, bill-pay, P2P transfers, and a host of threshold, balance and market alert services. M-Com also fronts a unique mobile payment gateway service (employed by Bank of New Zealand) that lets merchants process their customers' credit card transactions over the phone.

Founded in 2000, M-Com qualifies as one of the oldest mobile financial companies around. "We started a few years too early, to be frank," says Clark, says CEO and co-founder Adam Clark, an industry veteran with a background at MasterCard's smart-card UK subsidiary, Mondex. The company, which now has its lead sales and marketing execs based in Atlanta, later upgraded its platform to fit New Zealand's national payment switch network to seed its mobile banking outreach.

"One of the key things that makes M-Com stand out is they have the triple play of the platform," plus the international experience in advanced m-payments markets in Asia and Europe, says Mark Schwanhausser, a research analyst at Javelin Strategy & Research. M-Com's reseller agreement with Fiserv, announced in September, is going to deliver the first triple-play (SMS, browser and application-based mobile banking services) on a single platform in the U.S.

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