A consortium of US banks launched person-to-person (P2P) payment platform Zelle, a move they said would make digital money transfer easier for 86 million consumers.

Zelle is being rolled-out on a bank-by-bank basis and will be added to the apps of some of the largest retail banks in the US. It will be made available by 30 financial institutions within the next 12 months.

The consortium – known as Early Warning Services – includes Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan and Capital One. The group have deals in place with several other banks and credit unions to increase the scope of its services beyond its original members.

Banks participating in the scheme will include the Zelle payment function within banking apps, allowing P2P transfers to be made to consumers with accounts at any other participating institution using a mobile number or email address as the identifier.

Paul Finch, CEO of Early Warning Services, said: “Inconsistent experiences, have made it difficult to send and receive money between banks. Zelle unites the financial community behind a single, real-time P2P payments experience for millions of consumers.”

Challenging PayPal
Early Warning Services also plans to release Zelle as a standalone app, forging partnerships with Visa and Mastercard it said will enable customers of participating financial institutions to send or receive money from most US debit card holders.

This move puts it in direct competition with PayPal’s Venmo, which has been available since 2009 and processed $6.8 billion worth of transactions during the three months to end-March 2017.

P2P cash transfer is already available from several members of the Zelle network, but generally these services are limited to transacting between customers of the same institution.

Founding Early Warning Services members previously operated a system called ClearXchange, offering P2P transfer between a few institutions. In August 2016, it was announced this service was being replaced with Zelle.

The consortium said during 2016 its members processed a combined sum of $55 billion worth of P2P transactions.