Mondex banking in 12 months despite remaining concerns

All six New Zealand banks signed up to the Mondex consortium are committed to a full rollout of the Mondex electronic cash system in 12 months' time - even though only one bank has a trial in place, and there is yet no answer to at least one basic policy question. The consotrium's chairman says all the Mondex banks - ANZ, National, Westpac Trust, BNZ, Countrywide and ASB - will meet the October 1998 target. He denies a rumour that Westpac is the only bank currently on schedule, and that the other banks face financial penalties under the terms of their agreement with Mondex.

All six New Zealand banks signed up to the Mondex consortium are committed to a full rollout of the Mondex electronic cash system in 12 months’ time — even though only one bank has a trial in place, and there is yet no answer to at least one basic policy question.

Mondex New Zealand chairman Jeremy Dean says that although there is a "massive amount of work" to be done between now and then, all the Mondex banks — ANZ, National, Westpac Trust, BNZ, Countrywide and ASB — will meet the October 1998 target.

He denies a claim made to Computerworld by a banking industry source that Westpac — which has been running an internal trial of Mondex involving 300 staff — is the only bank currently on schedule, and that the other banks face financial penalties under the terms of their agreement with Mondex.

“There’s an agreement that we’ll meet a time to do a joint rollout, and that time is October 1998,” says Dean, who

represents the ASB Bank in the consortium. “That’s subject, obviously, to getting infrastructure in place, but at the moment no bank has given any indication that that time is not reasonable.

“At the moment there are no penalties for not meeting that deadline because it’s not being contemplated.”

Dean says Westpac “has offered to make some of [its] material available to the group, but really we’re talking about a rollout rather than a pilot. We know the technology works.”

The four Mondex banks in Australia recently announced their intention to roll out the system in the second half of 1998. Most Canadian banks have said they will follow on from a trial in Guelph, Ontario, using cards based on the old Hitachi 3101 chip. Mondex is still denying that the 3101 was broken last year, even though a leaked National Bank of New Zealand memo (since acknowledged by the bank as genuine) clearly states that it was.

The New Zealand rollout will use cards powered by Mondex’s yet-to-be-released Multos chip, which is optimised for the Multos smartcard OS Mondex wishes to promote as a standard. The consortium will almost certainly seek to interest other parties in creating their own Multos applications.

Although Mondex and Telecom have had discussions, Dean says no partnerships can be disclosed yet. He says much of the consortium’s work at present is with companies like ETSL and terminal vendors on infrastructure issues.

Mondex International and its majority owner Mastercard have been at pains lately to separately brand the Mondex system and its OS. Multos will host existing Mastercard payment services such as Maestro, as well as Mondex. Dean says he would be concerned if it was “inferred that the attributes of Mondex, which is deliberately an offline chip-to-chip function, will necessarily follow through to Multos applications”.

It will be up to member banks to write their own Multos applications, Dean says.

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