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MAILE CARNEGIE: Why ANZ joined Apple Pay when the other big banks resisted

Three of Australia’s major banks in Australia have resisted signing up for Apple Pay, demanding access to the iPhone hardware so that they can run their own digital wallets. But ANZ was conspicuous among the Big Four in not joining the fight against the tech company.

The Commonwealth, NAB and Westpac, along with some smaller banks, appealed to the ACCC to allow them to collectively negotiate with Apple for access to the iPhone’s near-field communications (NFC) chip to allow their own apps for contactless payments.

Apple resisted, arguing access would be a security risk, accusing the banks of acting as a cartel to “free load” off its technology.

The ACCC issued a preliminary decision to reject the application by the banks last year. A final ruling is due this month.

The tech giant has integrated willing financial institutions into its Apple Pay app, taking a cut of the transactions.

Now ANZ’s digital banking boss Maile Carnegie has revealed why the bank sided with Apple.

“It was a big decision for a couple of reasons,” Carnegie said at an Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Sydney on Tuesday. “Obviously, one was a signal to our customers that we’re listening to them. Because they wanted it, right?”

She said that ANZ could have also easily boycotted Apple Pay and insist that customers use the bank’s own digital wallet. But the demand was too much to ignore.

“People were asking specifically for Apple Pay. They were asking specifically for Android Pay. And if that’s what they want, we needed to figure out the most pragmatic way of giving that to them,” said Carnegie.

“We could look back and say, ‘I wish that was us, I wish they wanted our digital wallet as much as they wanted [Apple Pay]’. But they didn’t.”

Carnegie said that as well as being a win for customers, it also sent a message to the fintech industry about the bank’s willingness to collaborate.

“Almost as big a strategic advantage is the signal that it sends to other potential partners – which is that we are looking at doing the right thing by our customers and we will product-map within reason.”

The former Australian head of Google, she also lamented the country’s shortcomings in facilitating innovation and startups.

“If you look back at the Australian economy, what we see is that Australia is incredibly good at knowledge creation but what we’re very weak at is knowledge transfer and knowledge application,” she said. “We are going to have to address that.”

Carnegie, ranked number 23 in the Business Insider Tech 100, was Google’s local managing director for three years until she joined ANZ in June last year.

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