BPAY cancels MAMBO project

BPAY has scrapped the ambitious Me and My Bank Online (MAMBO) project after key stakeholders withdrew their support in the last two months, making the business case unviable.

update BPAY has scrapped the ambitious Me and My Bank Online (MAMBO) project after key stakeholders withdrew their support in the last two months, making the business case unviable.

ZDNet Australia can reveal today that BPAY will being winding down development on the MAMBO project with a view to shutting it down completely.

The MAMBO project was launched in 2007 by BPAY, and aimed to issue individuals with BPAY biller numbers to facilitate the creation of a single identity for online payments, meaning that it wouldn't matter if a customer moved banks or changed account numbers in the future.

BPAY managing director Andrew Arnott said in a statement today that the business case for MAMBO was no longer viable for the stakeholders involved.

"Despite the innovation that MAMBO would have brought to the Australian payments system, the project would not be viable without the ongoing participation of all BPAY's owners.

"The BPAY board's decision to close the MAMBO project has not been taken lightly. We have had to make a realistic and detailed assessment of what the withdrawals meant for the viability of the project.

"This is a great disappointment for all of us who have been working on the MAMBO project, and who were committed to developing a significant payments initiative for customers and businesses," Arnott said today.

The ambitious project has been mired with delays since its inception, however. It took a 12-month hiatus in 2009 before BPAY managing director Andrew Arnott promised the delivery of a major portion of the project in 2010.

The first cracks in the project began to appear when the National Australia Bank (NAB) withdrew its support last month. NAB said that it was prioritising its own innovation agenda instead of MAMBO, and had become concerned by the project's ongoing delays and final costs.

"In the past six months, NAB has become concerned with the status of the MAMBO industry project, and the ability of the project to deliver real customer benefits in a timely manner.

"It is NAB's view that the current MAMBO project environment is one of increasing costs, growing delays and heightened execution risk. At this investment level, we believe the project should deliver clearer customer benefits than what MAMBO currently projects," the bank said in a statement at the time.

ANZ Bank then withdrew its support from MAMBO a fortnight ago, for similar reasons.

"We also had our concerns about the rising costs and the slippage of some key deliverables," said Louis Hawke, ANZ's managing director of Product, Strategy and Marketing.

ANZ Bank deputy CEO Graham Hodges said that the project would have succeeded if developed by a single bank, as opposed to a congress of institutions with a poor history of communication, while analysts have suggested that the project would have succeeded if built by smaller banks.

Both Westpac and the Commonwealth Bank remained loyal to the development of the project up to today's cancellation.

Westpac told ZDNet Australia that it was disappointed at the news.

"Westpac remains of the view that the MAMBO project would have delivered significant benefits to customers, and we remain committed to the development of the Australian payments system," the bank's statement said.

The Commonwealth Bank told ZDNet Australia that the project had a "powerful vision" for the Australian payments industry. The Bank added that it was willing to put up its own cash for MAMBO despite its $1.1 billion investment in its core banking migration project.

"Commonwealth Bank is naturally very disappointed that other participants in MAMBO no longer support this vision for making payments easier for all customers, making the project untenable," the bank said in a statement.

The project had been cited by the Reserve Bank of Australia in its payments innovation review as a key milestone for delivering next-generation payments to customers. Others, however, had not been as optimistic.

Former Reserve Bank governor Bernie Fraser said in his recent report into account number portability that the project would be costly and complicated to deploy, drawing comparisons between it and the "bankgiro" system in Sweden.

Despite the cancellation of the project, Arnott commended the professionalism of the MAMBO development team in his statement today.

"The MAMBO team, over a long period, has shown intense professionalism, dedication and pride in their work," he said.

(Front page image credit: Headstones image by Dawn Endico and Luke Hopewell/ZDNet Australia, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Updated at 8:10pm, 26 August 2011: added comment from the Commonwealth Bank.