British Square rival Powa signs bank deal for mobile payments

  • Powa, the British rival to Square, a start-up backed Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey which allows smartphone owners to take credit card payments, has announced a multimillion-pound deal to provide its technology via a bank.

London-based Powa, which makes a smartphone app and small Chip and PIN reader that connects to the handset via Bluetooth, said its “white label” deal with South Africa’s First National Bank, was its first and heralded rapid expansion into global markets.

The technology is designed to make it much easier for field workers, travelling salesmen, shop floor staff and other mobile staff to take credit card payments securely.

Powa’s firm’s chief executive, serial entrepreneur Dan Wagner, said the deal would be the first of several tie-ups with banks in the next few months and that it “validates” his aim to make the product, mPowa, a white label offering. He aims to help existing financial services firms to make the step to smartphone payments more easily.

Mr Wagner said Google and other established technology firms experimenting with mobile payments were merely “pretending” to challenge in what remains a young market.

Square, his American rival, founded by Jack Dorsey and recently valued at $3.25bn, is the most established player. Like Powa, it produces a small dongle and app that turn a smartphone into a fully-fledged credit card payment terminal.

However, unlike, mPowa, Square’s technology is not capable of taking Chip and PIN payments, which are now standard outside the US.

“Square have been put forward as the winner in this market already,” said Mr Wagner.

“They’re wrong. We’re the winner.”

The rivalry between the British and American firms recently led to a threat of legal action, with Square complaining that a photograph of Mr Wagner holding the mPowa dongle was too similar to its own publicity.

First National Bank is due to begin distributing mPowa devices to its business customers within months. Powa will take a small per centage of each payment taken via the system. The firm already sells its technology direct to British businesses, but a major white labelling deal with a British High Street bank is understood to be in the works.