Wausau Financial Systems Inc. says it is ready to begin testing a service that lets consumers pay recurring monthly bills through text messages.

The Mosinee, Wis., provider of payment systems for bank and biller lockbox operations unveiled its mobile lockbox service Monday in Los Angeles at the annual conference of the Association for Financial Professionals, a trade group for corporate treasury executives.

Todd Juracek, the president of Wausau's enterprise payments unit, said in an interview Tuesday that his company is working with five to 10 billers and expects to complete its proof-of-concept testing by early next month. It expects to make it widely available by the end of the first quarter.

"We think this will appeal to customers who may be reluctant to sign up for a recurring payment schedule," he said. "They want the convenience of doing their banking when it's convenient for them and still have control of their transactions."

Wausau announced plans to develop such a service in May with ClairMail Inc., a Novato, Calif., firm specializing in mobile banking and transaction systems.

David Thompson, ClairMail's vice president of marketing, said he expects the first commercial deployments early next year.

"We use the same system, the same infrastructure, to do this as we do for our two-way actionable alerts and our mobile banking product," he said. "We expect banks and treasury operations will be taking advantage of this as well."

Consumers sign up for Wausau's GreenPayments service by sending billers a mobile phone number along with checks and remittance slips. Starting the next month, rather than sending a paper statement, billers will notify Wausau to send a text message, including data such as the payee's name, the dollar amount, and the due date to the customer's mobile phone.

The customer will be able to pay the bill immediately by responding to the message. Those who do not pay then will receive up to two more alerts. Last-minute payments could carry an expedited payment fee, Wausau said.

Payments will be routed over the automated clearing house system, and no personal account information will be transmitted over the airwaves, the vendor said.

Wausau says its remittance processing systems have a 48% share of the wholesale and retail lockbox markets.

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