This morning a French banker provided me with an explanation for the efforts of the banks at selling MVNO contracts to their customers. This explanation does not dismiss the influence of the contemporary urge to use any customer-facing operation as an excuse for selling services entirely unrelated to the core product – but it makes a little more sense.

Banks see the mobile payment wave rising high on their horizon, and they want to be part of the surfing – in a bank-centric model of course. As near field communications are coming soon to a handset near you, getting ready is a rather good idea.

To carve their rôle into the mobile payments ecosystem, banks believe that building a customer base is a good way to make sure that they will have a critical mass of users to deploy their products to when the time comes for that. In the context of a maturing market with decreasing churn rates, this makes sense – especially as the banking and insurance industry enjoys much lower churn rates than mobiles operators, and the banker’s image could have a halo effect on the mobile products they distribute.

But on the other hand, considering the leonine conditions that French mobile license holders grant to the MVNO, this is a fragile position on which to take leverage.

By the way, if you feel like working for a hot mobile payments company, take a look at the openings at Zong and say hello to Stéphane from me !