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Has Mobile Banking Finally Arrived?

By Jim Bruene on November 16, 2006 5:56 PM | Comments

During 11 years of publishing Online Banking Report, we've written about 500 words on so-called "mobile banking."

Even though it was a much-hyped topic in the late 1990s, our answer when asked about mobile banking was, "Fix your Web-based banking, add email alerts, and mobile will take care of itself."

Firethorn_homeBut it looks like times may be a-changing. Cingular is throwing its considerable muscle into a phone-centered service using Firethorn's <firethornmobile.com> new platform (see homepage right), and the U.S. market for wireless services is enormous (per MasterCard & Cingular during their Nov. 16 presentation at BAI's Retail Delivery Conference):

  • 2 billion mobile phone users worldwide, including 218 million in United States (per Cingular)
  • Nearly 80% of U.S households own one (per Forrester)
  • $660 billion of revenue for voice, messaging, and data services
  • 75 million U.S. mobile phone users sent a text message in September (per M:Metrics, 20 Nov. 2006)

Even more interesting, ClairMail shared market research showing that nearly two-thirds of U.S. consumers aged 18 to 34 have used text messaging during the past three months, demonstrating that even in the laggard U.S. market, a core group of consumers is ready, willing, and able to use the phone for more than just voice calling.

Analysis
There are three main reasons why mobile banking's time has arrived:

1. It works on common phones: Previous generations only worked on a subset of high-end PDAs; now most mobile phones can handle mobile banking.

2. It has a business case: Mobile banking can both increase fee income by being a core component of a Premium Online Banking service (see Online Banking Report #109) AND lower costs by migrating voice calls away from the IVR and into self-service.

3. The youth movement: Younger consumers interact with each other in real time via text and instant messaging. There is little doubt that they will value the same type of interaction with their bank.

We'll be looking at this subject in much more detail when we publish our first exhaustive report on the subject in January (see Online Banking Report in late January or early February).

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