Mobile Banking Archives

Mobile Account Opening Hiccups (updated)

By Jim Bruene on March 31, 2015 10:31 PM | Comments

Update (1 April 2015): I received two calls from BankMobile this afternoon, including one from its president, Warren Taylor. Apparently, my authentication failure was not due to my faulty memory or credit bureau errors. It looks as though I fat-fingered a typo in my social security number (lesson #4, use double-entry of soc numbers, especially on mobile) leading to some bizarro out-of-wallet questions. Anyway, my apologies to BankMobile for the kerfuffle. As to the issue of communicating to rejected applicants, the bank says it is working on new follow-up communications to rejected applicants. 


After whining about the current state of the mobile banking user experience yesterday, I was contacted by a reporter writing about mobile banking startups. He was curious about how the mobile user experience at the newcomers compares to that from major banks.

That got me thinking. While I've been impressed with the UIs at MovenSimple, and GoBank, I hadn't tried a new one for a while. So I decided to check out BankMobile, the mobile-first brand of Customers Bank, that has been getting a lot of press lately (for example, Mary Wizniewski in American Banker, David Gerbino in The Financial Brand). The new mobile-only bank uses technology by upcoming FinovateSpring presenters Malauzai and Mitek

bankmobile home.jpg

I first visited BankMobile online (above) to see how they presented themselves. Much of its opening pitch, in addition to FEE FREE (see above), centers on using the mobile camera for account opening, bill payment and mobile deposit...a compelling message for smartphone users.

Since I'd yet to use camera-enabled account opening, I was looking forward to the experience. While I had a little difficulty getting the drivers license captured, it worked as promised and successfully OCR'd my info into the account application. I just had to add my phone number, mothers's maiden, and social security number manually and I was almost done.

After selecting three security questions, the only thing left between me and a new bank account was the dreaded credit-bureau-enabled authentication step. When this technique first made its way online, I failed it repeatably. But in the past few years, I've gotten better at it. But this time, I was foiled. I know I got the first question right. Then I had to answer "Does not apply" to two questions in a row, a bad sign. Then the fourth question was guessing what year I opened a particular credit card (really, I am supposed to remember that?). Apparently I got it wrong, since my "application" for a checking account was denied.

I understand the requirements to authenticate new customers. And it's not BankMobile's fault I failed. But it's super frustrating. I presented a valid drivers license (front and back), input my personal info, and answered at least 2 of 4 authentication questions correctly. And since I didn't get that third one right, likely because of a credit bureau error, I'm unable to open an account. And were I a normal consumers, I'd be worried about whether I'd just been tricked into providing my personal info and copy of my drivers license to some crook. Even if I wasn't that paranoid, I might still have questions about how that personal information will be used.

bankmobile_declineBut the worst part is that there is no way to appeal the decision. All I received was a cryptic on-screen message saying "201. We are sorry, as we are not able to open an account for you" (see inset). No explanation. No number to call "if you believe you received this message in error." No alternative sign-up option. They didn't even send me an email followup. It was almost enough to make me wish they had a local branch (and I haven't felt that way for a long, long time).

Action Steps
When you move to mobile account opening, soon to be a must-have capability, please do yourselves a favor and consider what to do with those that fail your authentication stage. It's OK to make them jump through some reasonable additional hoops, but just letting them go is bad for business. Everyone under the age of 30 knows how to screen cap and post various business fails to social media. Don't be that company.

Instead, institute a second chance process:

1. If authentication fails, take applicants to a "need more info" page.

2. On that page, include the following:
A.) A sincere apology, ideally from a real person
B.) Explanation of what might have gone wrong, situations where you are unable to approve an account, and assurances that the applicant's private info is being held safely and confidentially
C.) Outline simple steps to resubmit the application
D.) Email, phone and text message addresses to get help (including hours of operation if not 24x7)

3. Send an followup via email and text message, apologizing and linking to the page outlined above


Mobile: Why Smartphone Banking Usage Rates Have Stalled

By Jim Bruene on March 30, 2015 8:35 PM | Comments

The Fed's latest mobile banking/payments usage numbers (full text) were bouncing around the fintech blogosphere last week. Most observers noted the 6 percentage-point rise in mobile banking across all devices (from 33% to 39%, includes respondents with any mobile phone & bank account) and the 5-point increase in mobile payments (from 17% to 22%). (Note: The online survey was fielded in December of each year. It counts as a user anyone who used a particular channel during the 12 months prior.)

Those trends were all upbeat. The only sour note was the flatline of mobile banking usage among smartphone owners. There has been virtually no change in the usage percentage over the past 24 months (52% in 2014, 51% in 2013, and 50% in 2012). Granted, the base of smartphone users has grown substantially during that time (71% of all mobile phone users in 2014, 61% in 2013, 52% in 2012), so the total NUMBER of users is growing at a nice clip.

Why has smartphone mobile banking stalled? Partly, it's just a normal plateau. Every new banking technology of the past 40 years (including ATMs) have struggled to get more than 50% adoption. That's not easy to solve. Education helps. But many users just need time to get on the bandwagon.

But I'm convinced that part of the problem is a flawed mobile banking UI/UX. In my case, despite being a smartphone addict, I use mobile banking sparingly, 2 or 3 times per year for most accounts. And often it's just to see what's new with the app. If I wasn't in the business, I'm not sure I'd be an active mobile banking user at all. And that points to a problem for issuers, who increasingly must satisfy mobile users.

What is holding me back? It's not security, the #1 reason given by non-users, because I believe mobile banking is significantly more secure.  And it's not because I forget about mobile banking or don't want to be bothered. I've been a huge mobile app user/believer since the the iPhone app store appeared on the scene almost 7 years ago. I have used 8 to 10 apps every day and in the last week have opened at least 25 (see note 1).

The problem is poor design relative to other non-banking mobile services, specifically these four issues:

1. Mobile login is tedious: It usually it takes 5 or 10 seconds longer to login via mobile. While that's a small amount of friction, it's just enough to send me to my laptop. And banking is the only app I use that requires constant logging in.

Help is on the way: TouchID and other biometric login methods will solve login stress. With TouchID, it's actually easier to login on mobile than laptop. Alternatively, no-login quick view of balance and recent transactions is even better.


2. Clunky mobile UI: It's tough to prove that a UI is flawed without having usage data. One person will fly through a task, while another gets mired on the same screen. But every so often, I come across a pretty obvious design failure. One I noticed this week (and the inspiration for this post), is the lack of a "go" button on Bank of America's mobile login screen (see inset). 

Previous users opening the app see just their remembered username. So far so good. But then, there are no visual cues on what to do next. All the choices seemingly relate to problems (lost password, lost ID, etc.) 

I stared at the screen for 30 seconds thinking I was either an idiot or the screen hadn't fully downloaded. But it's an app, so of course, the screen was all there. It turns out that the company that has boasted the most online banking users in America for going on 20 years neglected to create an intuitive start page for mobile banking. (Users are expected to know to touch their tiny username near the top of the screen to move to the password page).

3. Missing data: I did a project for a huge issuer three years ago. Even then, I was shocked that its mobile app only displayed the last 20 credit card transactions. For a power user, that's not even a full month. (It has since expanded transaction history substantially). But even that paltry 20 absolutely blows away my Bank of America Alaska Airlines card which still has NO mobile transaction history. It only shows current balance. Granted, I'm locked into this card due to the rewards, so I'm hardly going to leave due to circa 2007 mobile features. But the bank could even make mobile a profit center. I'm sure the bank could increase fee income by selling me a package of mobile features that raised my annual fee $15 to $20.

4. Lack of search: It struck me the other day as I was looking for an errant transaction that it was absolutely ludicrous that I was downloading old PDF statements and looking through them to find a single transaction. Didn't Google make this particular manual task obsolete more than a decade ago? Not only should you not have to look at transaction history statement by statement, you should be able to type the first 3 letters into a search box and have it autofill with your likely answer. This is one area where Mint and other PFMs blow most financial institutions away.


The future: I am firmly in the mobile camp. Eventually, mobile usage completely subsumes the desktop. Traditional online banking can't compete with a TouchID-enabled mobile experience, combined with integrated image capture, location awareness, better security and more. The only question is how long it takes to get there.


1. In the past week I've the following mobile apps: Feedly, Flipboard, NYT Now, Alaska Airlines, Expedia, Starbucks, Evernote, IMDB, Yahoo Sports, Google, Redfin, app store, notes, calendar, camera, mail, WeatherBug, Dark Sky, Kindle, Amazon, JamBase, Kayak, Craigslist, Fitbit, and BofA...see above.


20 Mobile Banking Landing Pages

By Jim Bruene on July 3, 2014 5:58 PM | Comments

image Last week, I caught up with the USAA folk to share thoughts on the future of mobile banking. They explained how they are converting visitors on the mobile web to their native app with a popup (interstitial) prompt (see inset). It's the first time I've seen a bank use that desktop technique on the mobile web.

It had been more than a year since I took a tour of major banks using my phone's browser (Safari, iPhone 5, iOS7). The last time proved relatively uninspiring. Several banks showed a mobile-optimized view, but most defaulted to their desktop-PC view which is unusable without tedious "pinch and zooming." And no one pushed users to the native app.

Today, that's changed dramatically. Of the 20 major mobile banking websites I visited, only one (Citibank) delivered a desktop-PC view (and that varied depending on which URL was used to enter the Citibank site). And four of the 20 pushed their mobile app heavily (and three more showed a download link to the app store).



  • While there has been much talk about pushing customers to less-costly HTML5 and  responsive-design mobile websites, it's still an app world (1 million and counting on iOS alone). And that's not changing if Apple has anything to say about it. If you have a native app, make sure your mobile customers know about it.
  • Every mobile web front landing page should include a prominent link (above the fold) to your native app(s). And it's not enough to simply show the Apple and Android app store logos. That's too subtle for many novice smartphone users.
  • The call-to-action should list at least one benefit to the native app. Facebook, for instance, simply says, "browser faster."
  • Test an interstitial landing page such as the one currently used by USAA. Users can choose "remind me later" to defer their decision to download the app, or they can kill the interstitial permanently by choosing "no thanks."

Table: Mobile web default view from 20 major mobile FIs
Key: Native promo = Promotes native app
Mobile web = Delivers mobile-optimized view
Pinch & Zoom = No mobile optimization on main landing page, requires pinching and zooming to navigate

  Mobile Optimized View? Native App Call to Action? App Store link? Large Promo?
Native app promo        
Bank of America Yes Yes Yes Yes
Barclays (UK) Yes Yes Yes Yes
Moven Yes Yes Yes Yes
USAA Yes Yes Yes Yes
Mobile web        
American Express Yes No No No
BB&T Yes No No No
BECU Yes Yes No No
BMO Harris Yes No No No
Capital One Yes No No Yes
Chase Yes No Yes No
Fifth Third Yes No No No
ING Direct (Turkey) Yes No No Yes
Regions Yes* No No No
Schwab Yes Yes Yes No
Simple Yes No No Yes
SunTrust Yes No No No
US Bank Yes No No No
Wells Fargo Yes No Yes No
Citibank Varies by URL No No No
GoBank No No No No
*Regions uses popup to provide choice of mobile view or full website

4 Amazon Fire Smartphone Features that Should Be Used in Mobile Banking

By Jim Bruene on June 18, 2014 6:33 PM | Comments

imageSeattle was abuzz today with the launch of Amazon's long-rumored smartphone, dubbed Fire. Naturally, I look at everything through a digital banking lens. So here are its innovations that could be leveraged or imitated for mobile banking.


1. Tilt to scroll

imageDescription: Fire users can tilt or swivel the phone to navigate through an app. For example, on the Kindle app, users can advance the page by tilting the phone so they don't have touch the screen every time you get to the end of the page.

Mobile banking use: Tilting would make a convenient way to page through transaction records. It could also be used to open additional functions such as tagging transactions or initiating a payment (e.g., Starbucks "shake to pay").

Verdict: Until I get my hands on the phone, it's a little hard to know how useful this feature will be. But it sounds like a nicely useful UI improvement (note 1).


2. Mayday button

image Description: Like the Kindle Fire, the Fire smartphone has one-button access to 24/7 video customer service with response time measured in seconds. Amazon calls it the "mayday" button. 

image Mobile banking use: Most mobile banking applications include telephone integration for a voice call to the call center. Instant video conferencing could be a good premium feature for high-value and/or fee-paying customers.

Verdict: While video customer support is not a killer feature, it has a nice ring to it when listed on your feature/benefit list. Certainly, banks should work on quicker response times for various types of products and/or customers.


3. Unlimited cloud storage

image Description: Amazon raised the bar for photograph storage, promising unlimited storage for all the pictures snapped from your Fire's camera.

Mobile banking use: Unlimited cloud storage for all transactions and statements.

Verdict: I know your compliance team gets queasy when discussing long-term data storage. But it's time to rise above all that and invoke one of the best customer-retention tools imaginable, unlimited secure storage of all banking records (see note 2).


4. One year of Amazon Prime membership

image Description: Fire smartphone buyers get one year of Amazon Prime membership free of charge. This savings of $100 covers half the cost of the 32GB phone ($199 with 2-year contract).

Mobile banking use: Premium channel

Verdict: Digital banking channels need an identifiable revenue stream to help pay for needed innovations and specialized services. A $4 to $5/mo "bank prime" membership program would go a long way in making digital a profit center (see previous post, note 2).


1. For more info, see our latest OBR Report on advanced mobile features (published June 2014, subscription). 
2. For info on fee-based financial services, see Online Banking Report (subscription) on fee-based online services (May 2011); paperless banking and online storage (late 2010); and lifetime statement archives (2005).


New OBR Published: The Rise of Mobile Banking

By Jim Bruene on June 11, 2014 7:24 AM | Comments

clip_image002Seven years ago we published our first full report on mobile banking. At that point, you could see that it would be widely used to access current balances and transactions. However, the broader services powered by the camera (remote deposit); GPS (location-aware alerts); and the audio jack (Square) were practically unimaginable back then.  

But now it doesn't take much of an imagination to see that banking is best done on a smartphone. The screen size is perfect for managing the small amount of data needed to understand your current financial position. And the always-on, always-with-you device is ideal for handling issues that just can't wait until you are home in front of your desktop computer.

So let's no longer think of mobile as a support channel. It's the other way around. Branches, call centers, and even online banking will support mobile banking, which is destined to be the dominant form of money management for the next 20 to 30 years.

Last month, we looked at a key missing ingredient in mobile banking, the new account application. This month, we look at the advanced capabilities banks must support to make the mobile UX superior to online.

About the report

image Advanced Features for Mobile Banking (link)
A guide to the important smartphone features coming in 2015 and beyond

Authors: Julie Schicktanz, Research Analyst &
Jim Bruene, Editor & Founder, Online Banking Report

Published 9 June 2014

Length: 44 pages

Cost: No extra charge for OBR subscribers, USD $395 for others (here)

Companies mentioned: ABN AMRO (Netherlands), Amazon, Apple, Bank of America, BBCN Bank, Blippar, BNP Paribas (France), Chase Bank, Cluster, Emirates NBD Bank, First National Bank (South Africa), Fiserv, Fitbit, Google, Greater Texas Federal Credit Union, Halifax Bank (UK), Isis, Malauzai, Mitek, PayPal, Pixeliris (France), PrivatBank (Ukraine), Rabobank (US), Royal Bank of Canada, Samsung, Simple (BBVA), Square, Southern Bancorp, St. George Bank (Australia), Starbucks, USAA, Verity Credit Union, Wells Fargo, Westpac (New Zealand)


Report excerpt:



Apple Touches Off First Wave of Mobile Banking Biometrics

By Jim Bruene on June 4, 2014 7:12 PM | Comments

image We've known this day was coming ever since Apple acquired AuthenTec two years ago for $350 million. That was real money back in the pre-Beats/Nest/Oculus days.

Monday, Apple made it official at its annual developers' conference: The fingerprint authentication system built into the iPhone 5S (Touch ID) will open to outside developers in the next iOS update (v8.0 expected in mid-September). That means that app publishers, including banks, credit unions & wallet providers, will be able to use it to provide initial authorization into a secure app. 

image The new feature was demonstrated on stage by logging in to Mint (see inset, screen cap tweeted by Bradley Leimer Monday). In the demo, Mint users are prompted to use the touchpad to open the app (the small type says, "Please authenticate in order to proceed"). Users are also given a password option.

Most likely, banks will use Touch ID, as well as other handset-resident biometric systems (note 1) to deliver "read-only" access to data. It's an approach that's been catching on around the world even before Apple's biometric wizardry. Citibank is the most recent to provide a no-login glimpse in its mobile app (called SnapShot), rolling it out nationwide two weeks ago (press release). It's also used at Westpac (NZ), Commonwealth (AU), Bank of the West, City Bank of Texas and many more (note 2).

For anything transactional, such as a wire transfer, banks will likely require additional authentication (see our Nine Circles of Security).

And of course, these security changes will generally need to be optional for customers until they become commonly accepted practices. Most users are still extremely wary of security on mobile phones, even though it is a marked improvement over the desktop (note 3).

While it's too early to know if any financial institutions will have it enabled by September, one fintech payment provider, CardFlight, wasted no time, announcing support for Touch ID just a few hours after the Apple keynote (note 4).


1. Celent's Jacob Jegher showed me his facial recognition login on his Android phone (Samsung?) at last month's FinovateSpring. Very cool, though he doesn't have it enabled since it slows up the login process just slightly.
2. Malauzai Software powers more than 90 credit unions and banks alone (post).
3. See our latest report on Mobile Security (March 2014, subscription) for more info.
4. Cardflight will be showing off its latest tools at our first developer event, FinDEVr, 30 Sep 2014, in San Francisco. 


Mobile PFM: Tracking Automobile Trips

By Jim Bruene on April 14, 2014 6:44 PM | Comments

imageLast week, MileIQ cracked the top-50 in Apple's "Finance | Free" category. Think of it as Fitbit for cars, running in the background automatically logging all car trips (and killing battery life). 

At the end of each trip, users categorize the trip by swiping left for personal or right for business (see screenshots below). Users can also annotate transactions by "flipping" them over and typing basic details (see screenshot 2 below).

That's basically all there is to the mobile part. Users go to the companion desktop dashboard (screenshot #5) to further categorize trips, stitch the various segments into a single trip, delete items, add parking and toll fees, edit the tags, manually add a trip and create reports.

You can also create a quick email report at the push of button from within the app (screenshot #6).

It's free for 40 trips per month, but then costs $5.99/mo or $60 annually. It could make for a nice auto loan/lease premium item.


Relevance for FIs

This feature would be a nice, fee-based value-add for personal financial management (PFM) programs. But the more interesting aspect is the UI. Banks could provide a similar function for handling all transactions. Users swipe to the left to categorize a transaction as tax-deductible/business or right if not. Later, just the left-swiped transactions could be tagged with more specific categories (business travel, charitable contributions, etc).

This simple approach ever so slightly "gamifies" mobile-transaction processing, helping users save money and better manage their finances. 


Mobile UI

#1 (left) Main page shows drive(s) to classify
#2 (right) Annotation available on the "back" of each drive card

 image        image

#3 (left) Congratulations for handling all transactions  
#4 (right) Pricing options

 image       image

#5 Desktop dashboard


#6 Quick email report, generated by button in mobile



1. We've tackled PFM numerous times over the years in our Online Banking Report. Most recently here (subscription).


BillGuard Brings Email-Like UI to Mobile Banking Transaction Flow

By Jim Bruene on January 22, 2014 10:35 PM | Comments

image The ink wasn't dry on my 2014 wishlist, when I got a message from BillGuard founder Yaron Samid, informing me that its new mobile UI was already doing what I'd most hoped for:

Wish #1: A Gmail-like priority inbox/feed for my financial transactions.

It's as yet not quite Gmail-level functionality -- for example, I'd like more tagging options than just "flag for later" -- but compared to the state-of-the-mobile-art today, it's pretty awesome. Thanks to BillGuard for getting the year off to a great start (note 1).


How it works

imageBillGuard aggregates credit and debit card transactions and flags suspicious items for review (see previous posts). So in that way, it has always acted like the Priority Inbox function within Gmail. However, its desktop UI looks more like a traditional PFM than an email inbox.

But for the smartphone, BillGuard has dramatically changed the interface. As you can see in the inset, they use "Inbox" as the name of the transaction register. There is even a red bubble showing how many new charges are available for review (see inset right).

The five primary items on the main screen:

  • Large green "card" >> Summarizes current month's spending across all aggregated cards (you can also swipe through the individual cards)
  • Inbox >> New transactions and any that you've flagged for followup
  • All >> All transactions in a single infinitely scrolling list (I have 1,000+ transaction going back three years, and I can scroll through all of them in less than a minute). You can look at all transactions or just the recurring ones.
  • Analytics >> Month-over-month spending graphs
  • Savings >> Merchant-funded offers


imageMore on the UI

1. Inbox view (click screenshot for a larger graphic):

  • Transactions are sorted with suspicious and unknown merchants listed on top and new, unviewed transactions below
  • Users can choose the right "Follow Up" tab to view only those transactions they have flagged for followup (see #x below)
  • User can swipe the transaction right to move it out of the new transaction inbox, as shown in the green "Metropolitan Market" transaction at right

2. Transaction detail image

  • The transaction "card" contains expanded info on known merchants such as full name, location, and URL
  • There are three key buttons:
    A. Green checkbox to okay the transaction, removing it from the inbox
    B. Orange "followup" button to keep the transaction in the pending list for later review
    C. Small gray box in upper right with a number that indicates how many transactions you've had with this merchant; clicking it brings up the list of all (10 in this case)


image 3. Merchant offer

  • Based on my transaction history, a discount offer from Target is displayed; clicking the green button brings up redemption options, in this case:
    - Email offer
    - Shop now



1. The mobile UI was actually released in the latter part of 2013.
2. Screenshot at top of post is an iPhone notification.


Mobile Monday: Reminding Customers to Make Mobile Number Primary

By Jim Bruene on January 6, 2014 6:21 PM | Comments

image Now that mobile is on its way to becoming the dominant banking interaction channel, we are going to obsess on the nitty-gritty details this year, both here and in our Online Banking Report newsletter. 

First up: How to get better mobile data into your CRM. By now many (most?) readers do a good job grabbing mobile numbers during new customer onboarding. But are you doing the same with existing customers? And even if you have a mobile number on file, is it the primary phone number on the customer's account?

Capital One 360 (formerly ING Direct) is reminding customers at login to take a look at their account info on file. And furthermore, the bank has added a small reminder to make your mobile number primary, if desired (see screenshot below).

Bottom line: Having the best primary phone number is a small, but important, part of servicing customers effectively. My only quibble with Capital One's implementation is that the reminder is easy to overlook as it's buried mid-page in a small font with a blue "i" graphic. A more dramatic graphical treatment would improve the results.


Capital One 360 login reminder page (30 Dec 2013)



Image source: Mobile First webinar by Ken Fang posted on


Umpqua Bank Launches Mortgage Sales Tool: Home Hunter

By Jim Bruene on September 27, 2013 9:39 AM | Comments

image Ever since I saw CEO Ray Davis speak at BAI in the mid-1990s, I've been a huge Umpqua Bank fan. But most of the bank's notoriety is around its fresh take on the brick-and-mortar experience. But that's not my thing, at all, so I don't get a chance to write about them often.

However, today I was delighted to see a new mobile app appear in the iOS store called Umpqua Home Hunter. It's a simple tool for house hunting. When a home buyer runs across a home of interest when out and about, they can open up the Home Hunter and automatically document the address (via GPS), then add comments, pictures, and a 1-to-5 star rating (see screenshots below).

There is also clever integration to Umpqua lenders. Users can forward the house to the lender of their choice to start the mortgage prequalification process (see third screenshot). 

Bottom line: While the app is pretty basic, lacking integration to home value databases such as Zillow, or MLS/Realtor services such as Redfin, it could recoup its development costs with a couple incremental mortgages every month. And even if it fails to do that, it's a novel mobile service that helps position Umpqua as an innovator in digital, like they've long been in branch banking. 


Users add a home details          , comments, rating

image       image     

Below left: Users have the option to send homes over to their Umpqua
loan officer to get the mortgage process started




Note: For more on mobile banking and/or online lending, see our Online Banking Report archives (subscription).


BBVA Compass Bundles Microbiz Checking with PAYware Mobile Card Processing

By Jim Bruene on July 30, 2013 7:09 PM | Comments

imageI rarely get a chance to write about checking accounts, so I was glad to see the BBVA Compass announcement on the wires yesterday.

The bank launched a Business Mobility Bundle which has checking, mobile card processing and a free Galaxy Tab 3 Android tablet (wifi-only), a $200 value (note 1). It's a soft bundle (note 2) of the bank's existing e-Business Checking Account and its Merchant Mobility Pack, powered by Verifone PAYware

imageThe checking account is fee-free up to a certain level of activity (note 3). But the optional card-acceptance piece is $24.95/mo, which is waived in this promo for 12 months. The offer is not currently visible on the bank's website, but a link in the press release leads to a landing page with the offer (see first screenshot).

Myimage take: The Business Mobility positioning is excellent, nicely tying two key business products together. The underlying accounts seem to be solid values, and the free Samsung tablet is sure to spark sales. 

However, my initial enthusiasm from the press release was somewhat tempered by the realities of the fine print (see second screenshot, note 1) and overall execution. For example:

  • No online application, it's a call-me form (albeit a good one)
  • Mobile deposit is limited to $1,200 every 30 days
  • Both the free e-Business Checking and the 12-month fee waiver for mobile card acceptance are currently available on the bank's website. There are no added benefits to the Business Mobility Bundle, outside the tablet premium
  • The free tablet is wifi only and sells for $199 online (it's no iPad)

The offer is not currently visible on the BBVA website, even through site search, presumably so it doesn't irk existing customers who cannot get the free tablet.

Bottom line: I like the promotion, although I wish the bundle had more features. For example, mobile banking pre-loaded on the Galaxy; customer service available via Skype; or even higher mobile-deposit limits for those using card processing (note 4).


BBVA Business Mobility landing page (link, 30 July 2013)


Fine print (positioned directly below the screen shown above)



1. Fine print: (A) New small business customers only, 1 per household/biz; (B) Must perform 10 transactions, not including intrabank funds transfers, within 30 days of account opening; (C) $100 minimum opening deposit
2. I just made up that term, but what I mean is that the customer is not required to add the Merchant Mobility piece to qualify for the free Samsung tablet. The checking account alone earns the premium.
3. Transaction limits before fees kick in:
- 50 items processed
- 2 in-branch deposits
- 5 processed checks and/or in-branch withdrawals
- $5,000 cash processing
In addition, mobile deposit has stingy initial limits of $500 max per item and only $1,200 max every 30 days  
4. The landing page could use more powerful visuals showing the BBVA mobile app and/or PAYware dongle in use.


Will mobile finally make PFM popular?

By Jim Bruene on July 29, 2013 7:15 PM | Comments

image In the online desktop era, we’ve seen only one direct-to-consumer PFM mega-hit: Mint (see note 1).

But looking at recent rankings in the U.S. Apple App Store (iOS) it looks like that may be changing. There are currently five specialty PFMs in the 13 most-downloaded free finance apps, including Mint of course. Is the mobile device finally what will make PFMs popular with consumers? Or are these apps just being downloaded by curious smartphone owners who will never register for the service, let alone become active users? 

My Take: Mobile is, and will be, a huge driver for specialty PFM apps. App stores help consumers find the services, and mobile makes them less daunting to use. But it’s not just the mobile platform driving usage at these four challengers (see below), it’s the way they have positioned themselves with tangible consumer benefits (e.g., save money by spotting fraud charges) rather than the nebulous (e.g., "manage your spending for a better life").

Parsing this list a little closer, only Mint is positioned as a pure PFM. The challengers are all backing into PFM from various niches:

  • imageBillGuard (#5) is positioned as a fraudulent charge protector
    and accomplishes that through account monitoring. It appeals to
    those concerned about losing money to fraudsters and greedy merchants.
  • imageLemon (#7) is positioned around mobile wallets and payments, but it also offers account monitoring as a premium service. It appeals to early adopters wanting to use their smartphones for payments and all things financial. 

  • imageManilla (#12) revolves around billing and financial statements, but obviously aggregated bank and credit card statements is a core PFM feature. It appeals to those wanting better management of their mess of paper bills, receipts and records. 

  • imageCredit Karma (#13) focuses on credit scores and debt management, but recently extended into full account monitoring. It appeals to those wanting to improve their credit scores and better manage debt.

Because most consumers have no interest in looking at a bar chart of their spending, it makes sense to sneak in the PFM piece through more compelling, benefit-laden service offerings. For banks, all four of these approaches are worth a look. 


Table: 20 most popular free finance mobile apps in U.S. Apple App Store 
Does not include several non-financial apps

  Name Primary Type
1 Capital One Bank/card
2 Chase Bank/card
3 Bank of America Bank/card
4 PayPal Payment
5 BillGuard (note 2) PFM: cards
6 Wells Fargo Bank/card
7 Lemon PFM: cards
8 Mint PFM: general
9 American Express Card
10 Scottrade Investing
11 USAA Bank
12 Manilla PFM: billing
13 Credit Karma PFM: debt
14 Discover Card
15 Citi Bank/card
16 Xoom Money Transfer Remittances
17 TD Bank Bank
18 Venmo (Braintree) Payments
19 Fidelity Investing
20 US Bank Bank/card

Source: U.S. Apple App Store accessed via iPhone 5 from Seattle, WA on Fri. July 26, 2013 at 11 AM PDT 


1. Not counting bank-branded PFMs from Intuit, Yodlee, Geezeo, Money Desktop, et al. And not counting the packaged-software stalwarts from the 1990s, Microsoft Money and Quicken.
2. BillGuard moved up to the #1 position over the weekend and remains there as of 6:00 PM PDT today
3. Check (formerly PageOnce) should also be considered in this discussion. It has been a top-20 finance app for the past few years, despite currently running in the lower 30s, probably due to its recent rebranding to an entirely new name
4. For more info, see the Online Banking Report PFM library (subscription required): PFM 4.0 (June 2012); PFM 3.0 (May 2010); Social Personal Finance (June 2007); Personal Finance Features for Online Banking (Aug 2006).

Tablet vs. Smartphone Mobile Banking Usage Data from Malauzai Software

By Jim Bruene on July 16, 2013 6:16 PM | Comments

image I've always been a numbers junkie, so it's much appreciated when companies send along snippets of proprietary data to share with readers. I have a few more items in the pipeline, so keep your slide decks handy.  

Today, we get a look at tablet vs. smartphone usage, courtesy of Malauzai Software. The data is from June 2013 (note 1) aggregated across 99 smaller banks and credit union clients with 98,000 total active mobile users (note 2). Some user behavior is significantly impacted by the Malauzai-powered app's specific design while other behavior is more applicable to mobile banking users in general (see the comments below from Malauzai).  

  • Login frequency: In June, 1.2 million total logins occurred across 98,000 active iPad and smartphone (iPhone/Android) users. Both types logged in at the same rate of 3x per week.
  • Login failure: Surprisingly, the login failure rate is higher on iPads, 27% vs. 15%. 
    Why? It is mainly due to "fat-fingering" as most users are successful on their second login attempt. Malauzai believes that tablet users are less comfortable with their keyboards.
  • Session duration: iPad users spent 50% more time per session (105 seconds on average) compared to smartphone users (70 seconds).
  • Logging off:  On the smartphone, 21% regularly log off the device vs. 80% on the iPad. 
    Why? It may be due to the iPad being more of a shared device in a family or household. Also, the logoff button is more prominently displayed on the iPad.
  • Internal funds transfers: iPad users made transfers valued at 2.3x that of smartphone users. The average iPad user transferred just under $900 vs. about $400 via smartphone. 
    Why? Malauzai speculates (although they do NOT have customers' balance-data to verify) that iPad users tend to keep higher balances and therefore have higher transfer volume. 
  • Transaction history: Transaction details are used by 73% of iPad users vs. 37% for smartphones. 
    Why: Malauzai believes it is caused by the transactional data being more readily available on the iPad due to its more-prominent display and larger text.
  • Branch/ATM lookup:  iPad users look up branches/ATMs 3x more frequently than smartphone users. 
    Why? The Locator on the iPad UI is more prominent, more user-friendly and has bigger graphics.


1. Malauzai has been publishing metrics for five months; see previous months here.
2. Clients include Air Academy FCU, Ameriana Bank (see inset), Centier Bank, City Bank of Texas, First Financial, Greater Texas FCU, and Walden Savings Bank. See our most recent post for more info.

Categories: Mobile Banking, iPad

UW Credit Union is First to Tap the Mobile Browser for Remote Deposit Capture

By Jim Bruene on June 6, 2013 6:50 PM | Comments

imageimageThere are a few dozen financial institutions I follow closely for inspiration. And one of my favorites is University of Wisconsin Credit Union. The 180,000 member, $1.6 billion asset CU, always seems to be at the forefront.

Its latest feat: Remote deposit capture from the mobile web <>. That's not a typo. Mobile deposit capture WITHOUT a (native) app!

UWCU is the first in the world (as far as we can tell), that allows smartphone users to deposit checks right from the mobile web (see the CU's blog post for more info). The CU taps new controls in mobile browsers (iOS and Android) to operate the mobile camera to capture paper checks. Image processing and fraud detection technology is powered by Ensenta (with Mitek IP).

The in-house UWCU dev team so far has eschewed downloadable apps in favor of mobile-optimized designs that work cross platform. They are working towards full responsive design, so any user can visit the UWCU site from any size device and receive the optimal design, complete with touchscreen controls when applicable. They are targeting year-end completion for the full package.   

But as much as Eric Bangerter (VP Ecommerce & Internet Services) and his team believe in the mobile web, they plan to bow to member pressure and offer a simple native app so they have a presence in the app stores (note 1). As Bangerter notes in a recent interview at, "Not being in an app store today is kind of like not having a Google (search) result." 

Bottom line: I've been a huge believer in native apps. It's how legions of smartphone users have been trained to access services (see note 2). Many normal people don't even understand the "browser construct" in a mobile phone. That said, I see the logic in UWCU's approach. Like most businesses, they must prioritize their investments. And now that the mobile browser can tap the camera (and GPS), it makes sense to push its mobile power users to the mobile web. But I'm glad the CU is also creating a lightweight native app to satisfy the rest.


UW Credit Union's mobile-browser based deposit capture in action (4 June 2013)
Note: Watch the full 90-second demo posted in the UWCU online banking blog, Source Code.

 image       image   

1. The lack of a native app has seemingly not slowed down its mobile growth. The CU has 36,000 mobile users, an impressive 20% of its member base.
2. For more info, see our recent Online Banking Report: Digital & Mobile Wallets (published Feb 2013, subscription).


Mobile Marketing: USAA Embeds Preapproved Loan Offers within Mobile App

By Jim Bruene on May 9, 2013 11:33 AM | Comments

Now that the U.S. personal credit crisis of 2008 to 2010 is in the rear-view mirror (but still visible), banks and credit unions are getting more aggressive with credit. And guess what new marketing vehicle is available in 2013 that didn't exist five years ago? Yep, mobile this and mobile that.

So far, the sales component in mobile banking has been minimal. Generally, users must already be a customer of the bank and even pre-registered with online banking. And cross-selling? About the only thing you can buy remotely is an ATM withdrawal.

But that will change as more customers only deal with their bank and cards through mobile apps, a number that is already pushing 30% of the online banking base of Bank of America (see previous post).

Eventually, most financial products will be sold through the mobile app. Not convinced? Look internationally where mobile was a thing even before the iPhone. I still remember Bankinter's 2007 BAI Retail Delivery presentation where they said 20% of their retail interest-rate swaps were done via mobile phone.

In the United States, we are starting to see banks pushing the envelope. USAA has been the leader in most areas. So no surprise that they are the first (that I know of) to place preapproved credit offers within their mobile app (see screenshots below).

In the bank's Dec. 2012 update (see inset), it added the ability to:

  • Accept pre-approvals in the app
  • Apply for checking and savings accounts in the app
  • Apply for life insurance after getting a quote in the app

Bottom line: The power of the pre-approved credit offer is well known. Traditionally, snail mail has been the medium of choice. But that's expensive, time-consuming, and oftentimes not delivered at the optimal moment. Delivering offers via mobile phone can solve all those problems.

And as an added bonus: The sales results will create a better business case for your entire mobile initiative.


USAA delivers preapproved credit card offer within its mobile app (Dec 2013)
Note: Screenshots shown are from a customer with an existing USAA life insurance relationship.
Price disclosures (right screenshot) displayed after clicking "Rates and Fees" under "Accept Offer" (left screenshot)

image         image

Source: comScore Q4 2012, Mobile Financial Services Advisor


Note: We cover online mobile delivery and marketing in depth in our subscription-based Online Banking Report.


Metrics: Mobile Banking, Payments, Insurance and Investment Usage

By Jim Bruene on May 8, 2013 4:18 PM | Comments

imagecomScore is compiling a wealth of digital usage data, both for desktop and mobile (see previous post). And luckily, they have agreed to let me share some of it here (see note 1).

The following chart is financial services usage data across 230 million U.S. mobile phone users aged 18 or older (note 2) in the United States as of year-end 2012. It includes any type of financial content, secure or public (i.e. this is not limited to secure access by account holders).

The data shows that 62 million (27%) of mobile users accessed financial content during the prior month (Dec. 2012 figures). The vast majority of those (87%) accessed bank content. Credit card or electronic payments (e.g. PayPal) were each used by about half the segment. And brokerage or insurance content was accessed by about 20% of mobile financial users.

Observation: The banking numbers have been widely circulated, but I hadn't seen recent breakouts in insurance and brokerage. Both were surprisingly high, especially insurance. If you assume there is generally one mobile financial user per household, that means that about 10% of all U.S. households are using mobile insurance info. Same on the brokerage side.

Source: comScore, compiled Dec. 2012


1. If you have requests, drop me a line and I'll see what I can find.  
2. Users of any type of mobile phone, smartphone or otherwise. Also includes text-message queries.


Fees: Regions Adds Time-Based Charge to Remote Deposits

By Jim Bruene on April 11, 2013 6:05 PM | Comments

image Retail bankers, we've had a sighting of that very rare bird, the North American Newfee. It was thought to have gone extinct in the fall of 2011, when anti-bankers shot down the last breeding pair, a malformed $5 debit card fee at Bank of America.

But surprise. Regions Bank has gone out on a limb and put a fee on the newest banking feature to sweep the nation, remote check deposit. And the bank didn't settle for the standard per-use fee (in trial at U.S. Bank), Regions got creative with a tiered price dependent on how fast you want the money (see note 1 for exact wording):

  • Immediate >>> 1% to 3% of check amount, with $5 minimum
  • Same night (8 pm cutoff) >>> $3 per check
  • Two days >>> $0.50 per check

There is also a potential $1 additional fee to temporarily raise your daily deposit limit to deposit a large check.

My take: I think Regions is smart to add fee(s) for the huge value mobile deposit delivers, though I think it would be better as part of a feature-laden bundle sold on a monthly subscription fee (note 2).

But tiered pricing is a novel idea worth trying. And I like the three options. But its probably too complicated for new users, at least the way it's presented in Regions FAQ (note 3). Also confusing matters, is the extra buck for checks larger than the user's limit. It's asking a lot for customers to decide among three options, especially when having to decipher jargon and timing rules such as "Funds are available during posting."  

image The multi-choice pricing scheme is an example of the paradox of choice. A theory (and direct marketing rule of thumb) that says you should keep choices to a minimum otherwise recipients become overwhelmed and just give up.

I think the bank would be better off starting with just two tiers, normal and expedited. Then introducing the third tier in v2.0 next year. 

But overall, congratulations to Regions for braving the unknown to see if this newfee has wings (note 6).


1. Here's how the fee is explained in the FAQ:


A somewhat better explanation is included on the mobile banking page:


2. For more info on fee-based banking services, our Online Banking Report on fee-based online services (subscription, May 2011).
3. Hopefully, the choices are better explained within the mobile user interface, which I was unable to see.
4. As expected, the initial reviews from Apple app users are harsh. Currently the bank has just a 1.5 star rating on the new version of the app containing mobile deposit. Down from 2 stars previously.  
5. Sorry for the prolonged bird metaphor. Sometimes you get bored at the keyboard (keybored?). It's also our second bird-themed post on fees. What's that about?
6. American Banker:


Mobile: Malauzai powers auto-login option at 90 community banks and credit unions

By Jim Bruene on April 9, 2013 10:17 PM | Comments

image I keep running across Malauzai Software as I research mobile innovations. They have developed some of the cool stuff at City Bank of Texas (previous post) along with photo billpay at First Financial (previous post).

The software developer has also been pioneering mobile auto-login, a feature I've written about a number of times (see note 1). In fact, Malauzai has been offering a no-login option, called SmarText, for almost a year. In terms of installed clients, they are clearly the market leader.

With this optional feature, users that have enabled Auto Login are shown their balance and recent transactions as soon as the native app loads. No login required (see screenshots below). However, to do anything transactional, users must conduct a full username/password log in (see last screenshot). 

Malauzai's SmarText passed compliance/security scrutiny at its clients since the system is no less secure that text banking. The system takes the balance/transaction info that would normally arrive via text message and displays it within the native app.  

City Bank of Texas was the first Malauzai client to adopt the technology in May 2012. Since then another 125 banks and credit unions signed up for the option, and 90 are live. Here are some stats across all the FIs:

  • 107,000 registered users
  • 15% of users are opting for Auto-login
  • Auto-login accounts for 20% of total logins
  • Best of class clients have a 25% opt-in rate


When Auto Login option is selected (left), balance and recent transactions are be displayed immediately

image    image   

However, full login required for transactions



Note (Who's on first?):

1. I get pretty excited when reporting new fintech bells and/or whistles. And I like to reward those pushing the envelope by anointing them first. But that can be risky. There can be a number of parties pushing it forward, making the claim of first murky at best.

That goes with the concept of no-login mobile balance lookup. Here's a timeline of the various firsts in the United States for this technology:

Then there are a couple other "firsts" that I missed at the time:

  • Jan 2013 >>> First bank (prepaid card): Green Dot's GoBank
  • May 2012 >>> First bank (checking): City Bank of Texas (powered by Malauzai, see above)

OK, I think that sets the record straight. Thanks everyone for innovating past the pesky mobile login problem.


Mobile Monday: Bank of the West is First in USA with No-Login Pulldown Balance Lookup

By Jim Bruene on April 1, 2013 2:45 PM | Comments (2)

imageTwo years ago the above headline would have sounded suspiciously like an April Fool's post. But it's no joke, we really are seeing banks offering no-login options and I hope it spreads. The latest innovator: Bank of the West.

Last week, the bank's mobile exec Matt Krogstad gave me a behind-the-scenes look at their new mobile banking service. In February, the bank replaced its previous mobile banking service with a new one powered by Fiserv (formerly M-com, see note 1). In the process, the bank added four important new features:

  • Mobile remote check deposit: A mobile requirement in 2013.
  • Bill payment: Another needed feature for users who prefer go mobile only, a number approaching 30% at first movers such as BofA and Chase
  • Single PIN login option: Users have the option of logging in with their full online banking credentials or selecting a six-digit PIN to replace both the username and password
  • No-login "pulldown" balance option: Swiping the Bank of the West logo down reveals the account balance of up to two accounts (see next section).

The bank also increased its mobile presence with Android and iPad versions.

The initial results are impressive. In less than two months, Bank of the West has had a 70% increase in active mobile users and a tripling of logins per day. And that was before the bank began pushing it last week (see website screenshots below).   

Bank of the West pioneers no-login option in USA
Bank of the West is the first U.S. bank with a no-login mobile balance lookup option (see others who have it here). After it's been enabled, users can simple pull down the logo at the imagetop of the home screen. Within 1 to 3 seconds (depending on connection speeds), the balance from up to two accounts is revealed at the top of the page.

Requiring users to swipe before showing the balance provides a nice mix between privacy and usability. It is super simple to use, yet it leaves your balance "hidden" if your kids, or friends, pick up your phone. 

Since, no-login lookup is basically the same as an SMS balance inquiry (something the bank already offered), the bank's security folks were able to approve it. Naturally, it's turned off by default. Users must enable it within mobile banking, something that about 5% of mobile users have done in the first month or so.


Bank of the West mobile users "pull" the logo down to reveal account balances (1 April 2013)

image     image

Bank of the West's homepage has strong mobile branding (1 April 2013)
Note: Surprisingly few banks or credit unions have elevated mobile banking (or online banking for that matter), to the primary navigation


Bank of the West mobile banking landing page (link)



1. Matt Krogstad was an early employee at M-com, which Fiserv acquired several years ago. He was involved in biz dev at Fiserv until his move to Bank of the West a year ago.

Comments (2)

Metrics: Mobile Traffic at the 10 Largest U.S. Banks

By Jim Bruene on March 27, 2013 10:13 AM | Comments

imagecomScore just enhanced its website traffic reporting by showing both the mobile and desktop  audience at major websites. They call it Media Metrix Multi-Platform. The top-50 U.S. sites are available here.

Unfortunately, there are no banks in the top-50 and just one fintech company (Intuit, note 1). But comScore forwarded us a list of the top-10 banks to share with readers (thanks, see table below).


  • The mobile-only group is becoming a significant segment, amounting to about 20% of the desktop banking group (across all banks)
  • However, BofA and Chase have much higher mobile-only groups, 50% higher than any other top-10 bank
  • Across all banks, 40% of mobile users are "mobile-only" while 60% also use desktop online banking
  • But at BofA and Chase, about 2/3 of their mobile base is "mobile-only"

Bottom line: It is no surprise that mobile usage is significant. But what I didn't realize is how quickly mobile users are giving up desktop online banking. Look at Chase and BofA, which have had mobile the longest. Only 1/3 of their mobile users went to the desktop during February. Partly, that's because many are single-service credit card customers. But it's strong evidence for what many have hypothesized: once users become accustomed to mobile convenience, they have much less need for desktop access.


Table: U.S. desktop and mobile traffic at the top-10 busiest U.S. banks
millions of unique visitors, age 18+ (Feb 2013)

Feb 2013 (USA) Total Desktop Mobile* Mobile Only Mobile Incremental**
Total U.S. Internet 236 221 127 14.5 7%
Banking total 102 85.1 39.1 16.4 19%
1. Bank of America 31.5 24.1 11.7 7.4 31%
2. JPMorgan Chase 28.3 21.9 9.9 6.3 29%
3. Wells Fargo 22.2 20.0 3.5 2.2 11%
4. Capital One 15.4 12.7 3.8 2.8 22%
5. Amex 15.3 12.6 3.8 2.7 21%
6. Citi 11.8 10.4 2.0 1.4 13%
7. Discover 7.8 6.5 1.7 1.3 20%
8. HSBC 6.5 5.5 1.3 1.0 19%
9. US Bank 5.5 4.8 0.9 0.7 14%
10. PNC 4.8 3.9 1.1 0.8 21%

Source: comScore, March 2013 (methodology)
*Includes smartphone and tablets, native apps and mobile Internet
**Mobile-only divided by desktop base


1. Intuit placed #42 of all U.S. digital properties with mobile audience of 15 mil, desktop of 29 mil, and total 38 million. It had 8.9 million mobile-only users, 31% of its desktop base.


Mobile UX: Barclaycard Adds No-Login Transaction "Peek"

By Jim Bruene on March 26, 2013 11:46 AM | Comments

One of my pet peeves is burdensome login procedures on smartphones. There is no rational reason to force cardholders to log in to see basic transaction data (unless they want to). We've covered it here, here, and here.

imageBut this is the first time a major U.S. issuer has opened up mobile transactions. Barclaycard's iPhone app update released today (v. 3.1.4267, see inset), contains the new Peek feature which:

....provides a quick-view of key
account details prior to login 
(selected cardholders only)

It's not discussed on the Barclaycard (U.S.) website, so I don't have an action screenshot. And the "selected cardholders only" probably means its not available across all of its 35 different portfolios.

Bottom line: No-login transaction history is a good way to improve customer satisfaction, help move your card top of wallet, and possibly reduce costs from fewer password resets, fraud, and customer calls. I hope we see other major issuers follow suit soon.  


First Financial, US Bank Launch First Photo Billpay Services

By Jim Bruene on March 7, 2013 5:17 PM | Comments

imageI started this post Monday, before I knew US Bank would be making headlines today as the first "major" bank with photo billpay. I got that news last night, when I updated my US Bank iPhone app (see inset).

But First Financial Bank (Abilene, TX; $3.7 billion deposits) actually imagebeat US Bank ($235 billion) to market by more than a month with its 22 Jan 2013 launch (press release; YouTube video). The bank said it had 12,000 bill uploads during the first 10-days of availability.

 US Bank mobile photo billpayBoth services use the Mitek engine to read the image and handle the OCR work. But First Financial also uses Allied Payment Network to process images that don't get properly digitized on the first pass and Malauzai Software for app development. 

Like remote check deposit, the system will improve over time as it learns the nuances of the thousands of billing statements fed into the front end. But today, there is still work to be done on the minority of statements that don't read correctly (see note 1).

First Financial features the new service front and center on its homepage (see first screenshot below) with a clever:

Tell your bills to say, "Cheese."

US Bank has no mention of it on the front page (nor in site search), but if you navigate to its mobile banking page, you can't miss it (third screenshot below).

image Bottom line: I'm not sure how many people will ultimately use photo billpay (though First Financial seems to be off to a good start). It's an interim technology until we can convert the country to ebills.

But since that may be a decade from now, using your smartphone to snap-and-pay is the best answer for now. So, we are bestowing our first OBR Best of the Web of 2013 to First Financial  for raising the bar in remote delivery (notes 2, 3). And an honorable mention to US Bank for getting it out to a broader market.  


First Financial features its new photo billpay on its homepage (6 Mar 2013)

First Financial Bank homepage featuring photo billpay powerd by Mitek

First Financial landing page (link)

First Financial Bank landing page for photo billpay

US Bank's mobile page features photo billpay prominently (link)

US Bank mobile banking page featuring photo bill pay


1. Just today, the Chase ATM couldn't read the amount on a computer-generated check we fed into its deposit slot. So we had to manually add.    
2. This Best of the Web goes to First Financial since it was first. Mitek already won when it introduced the technology in 2010 (see our Online Banking Report on Paperless Banking (subscription).
3. Since 1997, our Online Banking Report has periodically given OBR Best of the Web awards to companies that pioneer new online- or mobile-banking features. It is not an endorsement of the company or product, just recognition for what we believe is an important industry development. In total, 89 companies have won the award. This is the first for First Financial. Recent winners are profiled in the Netbanker archives.


Movenbank Provides a Peek at its User Interface

By Jim Bruene on January 29, 2013 10:11 PM | Comments

imageTech startups help define the future in many traditional industries. Amazon in books, Expedia in travel, Tesla in automobiles.

But there's been less disruption in retail banking than most industries, especially in the U.S. We saw ING Direct take some share in savings accounts, but not enough to really shake up the status quo. 

But we have some new players looking to change that and Movenbank is one of the most interesting. The Brett King-founded startup, armed with $2.4 mil in seed funding, is beginning to release more details as it prepares for its launch at our FinovateEurope event in two weeks.

In an email to customers today, the startup provided a few peeks at its Geezeo-powered PFM interface (screenshot below):

  • MoneyPulse: A snapshot of the your current financial situation with green/yellow/red dial so you know in a glance if there are problems.
  • Movenbank MasterCard PayPass sticker MoneyPath: More of a typical budgeting piece.  
  • Account aggregation: Beta users can already add accounts from several-hundred banks and credit unions; so unlike Simple, it appears Movenbank is supporting account aggregation out of the box
  • Spend | Save | Live: Primary navigation across the top of the dashboard

In addition, the "how it works" section shows a MasterCard PayPass sticker used for contactless payments (inset).


Movenbank interface (from customer email, 28 Jan 2013)
Note: "Spend | Save | Live" navigation across top.
This appears to be a PC user interface, but it could be a tablet UI.

Movenbank user interface w PFM features


Mobile Monday: USAA Taps the Mobile Camera for New Account Opening

By Jim Bruene on January 14, 2013 6:14 AM | Comments

USAA ipad app offers mobile check deposit The smartphone has already changed the way we work, communicate, find information, and behave. But it's had a limited role so far in bank-account opening (note 1).

But leave it to USAA, the pioneering bank for all things mobile (note 2) to lead the way again. First reported this week in American Banker, USAA is testing the use of "blank check" capture to make it easier for certain new customers (note 3) to make their initial deposit (note 4).

Customers can snap a picture of a blank check from their old account and then enter the amount to be transferred electronically (note 5). It's not really any faster, actually probably slower, than simply typing in a checking account and routing number (twice). But given how frustrating data entry can be on a mobile, some users will love it.

More importantly, it introduces users immediately to mobile capture and removes one more barrier to getting that first deposit on the books. And it makes USAA look cool.


1. At Finovate, we've seen the mobile camera used in a number of interesting ways. oFlows (now a part of Andera), wowed the crowd in 2009/2010 with various paperless account-opening and -processing technologies (for example, check out its FinovateSpring 2010 "Best of Show" demo).
2. USAA launched mobile remote deposit 18 months before any other major bank and a full 3 years before Bank of America (see our 2009 post).    
3. Only certain USAA members are eligible to use mobile deposit (generally, those with military service or their family members who have acceptable credit).
4. Unfortunately, USAA doesn't yet support full mobile account opening. New customers must first go online and establish a new account and register a username and password. Then they must go to USAA mobile banking, log in, then take a picture of the blank check. Furthermore, only certain USAA members are eligible to use mobile deposit.
5. In the United States, the funds are moved via ACH, a little-understood system that banks could do a better job explaining to customers. See a rundown of the mysteries of ACH from the customer's standpoint in this enlightening Deposit Account post from yesterday.


Mobile Monday: Top 50 iPhone and iPad Apps in the Finance Category

By Jim Bruene on January 7, 2013 8:38 PM | Comments
app store logo.jpg

I knocked around Apple App Store last week researching our year-end Online Banking Report. Below are the current top free finance apps in the U.S. store (note 1). While there are not a whole lot of surprises, several are notable:

  • Credit Karma maintains its top-10 ranking (#9)
  • Intuit has three of the top-10 apps (#4, 6, 8) plus #30
  • Two of the top-5 financial institution iPhone app providers (PayPal and Capital One) do not yet have iPad apps
  • Three credit-monitoring apps are in the top 32 (Credit Karma #9, Intersections #23 and Experian #32)
  • Two banks each have two apps in the top 50: Capital One (#6 and #34) and PNC (#25 and #42)
  • Five fintech startups made the top 22 (Credit Karma #9, LearnVest #15, Lemon #19, Pageonce #20, Manilla #22); all but Lemon are Finovate alums (note 2)

Methodology: I first listed the top 50 iPhone apps from the "Free Finance" category (column 2). Then I went to the iPad store and found their corresponding iPad app rank (column 3). I then listed all the remaining iPad apps in the top 50 and their corresponding iPhone rank (last 20 rows below).


Top iPhone/iPad Finance Apps in Apple App Store (USA)

Company iPhone Rank iPad Rank
PayPal 1 none
Chase 2 3
Bank of America 3 1
Mint (Intuit) 4 5
Wells Fargo 5 2
TurboTax (Intuit) 6 31
Capital One 7 none
TaxCaster (Intuit) 8 16
Credit Karma 9 none
American Express 10 7
Discover 11 13
Citibank 12 10
USAA 13 8
State Farm 14 47
LearnVest 15 none
Yahoo Finance 16 11
Easy Envelope Budget 17 42
US Bank 18 26
Lemon 19 none
Pageonce 20 23
Fidelity 21 12
Manilla 22 none
Identity Guard (Intersections) 23 none
Navy Federal FCU 24 none
PNC 25 19
iSpending 26 116
Barclaycard 27 35
Mortgage Calc (Zillow) 28 20
TD Bank 29 none
Quicken Money Management (Intuit) 30 17
TD Ameritrade 31 27 (Experian) 32 55
Pocket Expense 33 15
ING Direct (Capital One) 34 none
Quicken Loans 35 none
E*Trade 36 33
Spending Tracker 37 28
SunTrust 38 none
Western Union 39 none
iSpreadsheet 40 9
BB&T 41 46
Virtual Wallet (PNC) 42 40
Bloomberg 43 22
Budget 44 none
Expensify 45 53
Ally Bank 46 none
HSBC Personal 47 none
H&R Block 48 24
Bluebird (AmEx) 49 none
Seeking Alpha 50 none
Below top 50 iPhone    
Craigslist mobile not in finance 4
Money Magazine none 6
ShareBuilder (Capital One) 114 14
CNBC 55 18
Real-time stock tracker 64 21
Vanguard 58 25
Morningstar Stockinvestor 198 29
Personal Capital 92 30
Regions Bank 54 32
Visual Budget 62 34
Merrill Lynch 84 36
Bloomberg TV 125 37
Mortgage calculator (Trulia) 102 38
SmartMoney Retirement Planner (Dow Jones) none 39
Bills for iPad (iBear) not in top 300 41
Budgets for iPad (iBear) 162 43
Checkbook free 53 44
Smart Budget 120 45
TD Ameritrade Mobile Tracker 86 48
EZ Financial Calculators 63 49
Schwab 60 50

Source: Netbanker observation of Apple App Store directly from iPad and iPhone around 6 PM Pacific, 7 Jan 2013

None = No app listed with the App Store for that device


1. The Apple ranking system is a bit of a black box. But it's generally believed to weigh heavily recent download activity.
2. Easy Envelope Budgeting (#18) is from a San Francisco-based Web developer Dayspring Technologies founded in 1998.


American Express Launches Mobile App for its Bluebird Prepaid Card

By Jim Bruene on October 16, 2012 10:34 PM | Comments

image Today, American Express released the iPhone app for its new Bluebird prepaid card which will be sold in Walmart stores and elsewhere. The app allows new customers to sign up for a Bluebird prepaid card, but in my test I was not able to get that to work (see below).

As you'd expect from American Express, the app is attractive and well designed. It includes imageimportant payment features (see inset):

  • Billpay
  • P2P payments 
  • Request money
  • Mobile remote deposit

My experience: I downloaded the 7MB app today. The only screen visible to non-cardholders is dominated by a login area. But it also has a Get Started button, which I learned was where you apply for a new card (see number 1 below). It would probably be better to call it "Get your card" or something more obvious.

This next screen contained an odd question, "do you have a Starter Card?" (with that capitalization)(see screenshot 2). Again, this is not the clearest way to make a sale. Why not just say "Do you want a new card?"

After I clicked "No," the app took me through a standard three-step process for getting a card including name/address, SS number and disclosures (see screenshots 3-5). For some reason, my company email address did not work (an error message said I could not register with that email). But a standard @gmail address worked fine. The application also has the annoying requirement for a capital letter in the password which is overkill, especially on a mobile phone.

In all, it took almost five minutes to complete because of the various errors I made along the way.  

But despite being an Amex cardholder for two decades, the company could not "verify my information" (see screenshot 6) and I was declined for a prepaid card. I went back and re-entered everything with the same result. The final error message (which could use a rewrite) suggested that the issue might be my fault. But if I thought otherwise, feel free to give them a call.

Which I did. But after 3 or 4 minutes trying to explain to the rep what had happened, I gave up. She was picking up my keywords and reading the script. But she was clearly having trouble following my story. At the 3.5-minute mark mark she suggested I "download the mobile app." That's when I signed off.

Bottom line: It looks like a great app and I look forward to using it. And I'm willing to cut American Express some slack given how new it is. The app hasn't even been officially announced, so I'm sure the kinks will be worked out shortly. 


1. Login screen                              2. Odd question

image     image

3. Application name/address          4. Application SSN/password

image      image 

5. Disclosures                                6. Error message

image       image


BillGuard is First Financial Service to Integrate with the New iPhone Passbook Wallet

By Jim Bruene on September 25, 2012 6:21 PM | Comments

imageApple's Passbook is a massive wildcard in the race for mobile payments, banking and rewards. Will the iPhone's massive user base take to it like they did iTunes, or will it be one of those ideas that sounded good on the drawing board, but just doesn't resonate with consumers?

imageNo one knows if it will stick (although I got pretty carried away with the possibilities when it was announced in June), but given the potential upside, it seems a solid bet.

Starbucks is about to push its massive mobile base onto Passbook, a pretty strong endorsement. American Express has thrown in its support. No word yet from other financial players. 

Except BillGuard, which gets to lay claim to being first. CEO Yaron Samid emailed yesterday announcing beta support for Passbook. The startup built a landing page for the new service at <> (see first screenshot) and is even testing some Google Adwords spending around the feature.

BillGuard users can now view each of their monitored credit cards within the Apple Passbook application. It's a two-step process to get the cards added to the Passbook utility.

  1. Users click on "Add to Passbook" at top of BillGuard's normal online dashboard (see second screenshot)
  2. BillGuard sends an email with a "pass" attached for each card. Users view the email on their iPhone, then click each attachment to add to the iPhone utility (see third screenshot)

Once added, user can view their current card balance and recent transactions from the Passbook card (see last screenshots).

Bottom line: It's a great move for BillGuard, especially since it does not yet have a native mobile app. Now I can click on the Passbook icon and without logging in, quickly see the activity on all my registered cards, and whether there are any suspicious charges.

Banks could do something similar. Basically, creating a no-login card mini-app that aligns their brand with the iPhone 5. However, one area to consider is security. Anyone who got a hold of the email BillGuard sent me could start monitoring my card(s) through Passbook without my knowledge. For a bit more security, passes can be distributed directly through native apps and websites.


BillGuard Passbook landing page (link, 25 Sep 2012)
Note: Example is a Chase card "protected by BillGuard" image

Step 1: Click the "Add to Passbook" button on top of BillGuard's main online dashboard


Step 2: BillGuard emails a "pass" for each card on file. Users open the email from their iPhone and click the attachment(s) to add each card to Passbook


Results: Each pass has its own "virtual card" in Passbook, with a "front" and "back"
Front includes current balance                     Back includes recent transactions

image     image 

Note: The placeholder barcode displayed in the BillGuard pass is a customer referral form according to MyBankTracker. When Starbucks unveils its Passbook support next week, I'm sure the barcode will be usable to make a mobile payment at the Starbucks counter.


Numbers: Sunny Outlook for Mobile Banking (U.S.)

By Jim Bruene on August 27, 2012 10:54 AM | Comments

image ComScore's latest mobile usage numbers provide useful context as you head in to the 2013 business planning cycle. With 42 million monthly smartphone users, mobile banking penetration (38%) is similar to other specialized information services such as sports (39%), news (49%), and movie info (30%).

Granted, banking still trails the gold standard of info services, the weather button, but it's gaining ground.


Table: Information services accessed by U.S. mobile users
2012, Q2 monthly average

  Smartphone % Using All Mobile % Using
Total audience 110 mil 100% 230 mil 100%
Weather 75 mil 67% 90 mil 38%
Facebook, Twitter* 71 mil 64% 86 mil 37%
Search 67 mil 60% 80 mil 34%
Map 59 mil 53% 68 mil 29%
News 54 mil 49% 64 mil 27%
Sports 43 mil 39% 51 mil 22%
Bank account 42 mil 38% 49 mil 21%
Entertainment news 42 mil 38% 51 mil 22%
Movie info 34 mil 30% 40 mil 17%

Source: ComScore MobileLens as cited in Advertising Age, 20 Aug 2012; 3-month average ending in June 2012; usage counted is the user accessed info in the category at least once in past 30 days; *any social networking site; percentages may be off by 1% due to rounding of the numbers to two significant digits

Op Ed: When Push (notifications) Comes to Shove

By Jim Bruene on August 9, 2012 2:28 PM | Comments

by Michael Nuciforo

Michael Nuciforo is a Mobile Banking Consultant at Keatan. He previously worked at ANZ on a number of developments, including goMoney, and more recently managed the UK retail portfolio as Head of Mobile Banking at RBS.


imageOne of the last relics from the dawn of mobile banking, SMS alerts, is fast approaching the end of its use-by date. The service has become a victim of its own success: Consumers embraced the ability to be informed, and costs have risen exorbitantly. SMS alerts were the first tentative steps that most banks took in delivering mobile services. They have now been pushed aside, quite literally, by their younger, more attractive successor - push notifications. The move from SMS to push shouldn’t just be about saving money, however. It’s an opportunity for banks to engage customers in a much more effective fashion.

It is almost impossible to find a bank that doesn’t offer some form of SMS bank alerts. It was easy to deploy, simple to set up for customers, and the costs were negligible (at least in the beginning). Most banks forecast low usage so they did not pass along the cost to consumers. Banks signed pay-per-alert contracts with suppliers that in hindsight were the wrong choice. It was the information age, but banks completely underestimated customers' insatiable desire to stay informed. Alert volumes grew and grew and the pay-per-alert model suddenly wasn’t so attractive. It was also costing the bank overdue/overdraft fees because customers were more financially informed.

The success of SMS alerts laid the path for the future investment in mobile apps. It validated the long held belief that consumers would adopt mobile banking in droves. As the mobile channel has matured, banks have started to evaluate what worked and what didn’t. At the same time as SMS costs were becoming a concern, push notifications started to hit the mainstream. The pupil was challenging the teacher.

Push notifications are a native capability most prevalently used on Apple’s iOS platform. Push has become so popular that almost every new application asks you to accept their use upon download. They are free and operationally much cheaper to maintain than SMS. Cost reduction, however, is only the beginning of the story. The ability to engage customers at a different level is the main benefit push notifications offer banks. Push allows developers to integrate a notification message deeply into a follow-up activity on an app. This means a consumer can complete an action directly from an alert. There is no copy and paste, selecting links or opening an app. It’s all tied together. Information can be sent, and a customer can act with the tap of a button.

Push notification allows banks to move away from being a one-way communication channel. It allows banks to take advantage of the opportunity to be proactive and engage customers about what is important to them. Customers can move beyond receiving alerts about balances or transactions. Instead, banks can start telling the customer what they should do with their money. I can imagine the day when my rent is due, and if I don’t have enough in my current/checking account, I get sent a push notification asking whether the bank can transfer the necessary amount from savings. I click accept and see the confirmation screen within the app. Problem solved.

The great thing about push is that the business case writes itself. Cut costs and do something more effectively = instant business case-approval. There will be an initial implementation fee, and ongoing management, but beyond that, it's free, nada, zero. Think about that. Your future most-powerful communications channel is broadly free. Click-through rates on push are higher than traditional channels and messages can be sent in the context of your customer’s situation, location, time and even weather. It can also be used by all parts of the bank, including products, security and insurance.

When push comes to shove, the move away from SMS reflects the broader change required throughout the banking industry. Banking needs to evolve away from just being a set of customer-initiated activities. Banks need to be proactive and do the banking for the customer. Push notifications deliver a simple a contextual banking experience that lifts the mobile banking channel from being useful to indispensable.


Mobile Marketing: Leveraging the iPhone App Update Process

By Jim Bruene on July 30, 2012 4:53 PM | Comments

image As customers have adopted ever-more convenient delivery methods, the customer communications process has changed dramatically. Each channel has its own ways of communicating with customers:

  • Branch/mail: Signage, statement inserts, chance conversations in line, direct sales pitches
  • Phone: On-hold messages, prompts on the phone tree, direct sales pitches
  • Online: Email, interstitials, display ads, website content, popups, online chat
  • Mobile: Similar to online plus notifications, text messages and app updates (see below)

In the mobile channel, the process for updating native apps provides a unique marketing opportunity that is virtually without cost and guaranteed to be read by a large portion of your mobile customers (previous post). App publishers have a screen of free real estate to explain the benefits of the new feature(s).

I've read thousands of these update descriptions and there is huge variety of approaches. Some publishers take maximum advantage of the "free publicity" to engage their customers (see Yelp below), pump up the new features (see USAA), and seek additional feedback (see Redfin, SimplyUs examples).

Other publishers don't pay enough attention to readability (Wells, Bank of America, US Bank examples, see note 1) or just put the minimum effort into a bulleted list (E*Trade). 

Bottom line: Each time you push out a new update, use it as an opportunity to educate users and reinforce your mobile brand.


iPhone App Update Examples


Yelp reinforces its playful brand with        USAA is more matter of fact, but  
enthusiastic and humorous copy                   does a good job highlighting new
announcing its v.6.0.                                           features in its v.4.9.

image     image

Redfin released a minor bug fix in             SimplyUs gets right to its bullet
v.3.3.2 but includes its email address        list of features, with just enough
to report any issues.                                           info to explain the v.1.0.17 update.
Nice touch!                                                            Plus email and Twitter handle.

image     image

Need work

Wells does an OK job, but the first               Similarly, Bank of America has an
bullet reads like something lifted from        acceptable message for its v.3.3.351. 
project checklist. And the second                  But the copy is a little confusing and
is too long-winded. Plus, a floating             has an asterisked point floating mid-page.                       "Bug fixes" hovers at  the bottom                        
of its v.2.1 update.

image     image

US Bank's v. 1.6.8 message is                    E*Trade's 2.6 update sounds like it
confusing. Something about being             has a bunch of new features, but
asked to accept a quick update, but          it did nothing but list them with
no specifics on why or what has                no explanations.

image    image


1. These examples were all taken from updates I downloaded today. They are not necessarily indicative of every update from these companies. At major releases (such as Yelp's v6.0), most publishers will step up the copy-writing quality.


Westpac Launches iPad Banking with Drag-and-Drop Transfers

By Jim Bruene on July 11, 2012 3:38 PM | Comments (3)

image Touchscreen technology isn't particularly game changing in banking. For the most part, users simply look at transactions, type a few numbers, and press a button or two. Touchscreen or mouse, it works pretty much the same. 

However, Australia's Westpac Bank (creators of Cash Tank and Impulse Saver) has figured out a way to use the swipe motion to simplify the funds transfer process. In its new iPad app (launched today), each account is shown on the screen in a small summary box.

To initiate a funds transfer, users move the summary box for account A over the summary box for account B, then type in the amount (see first screenshot below). Similarly, to initiate a payment, users drag the summary box over to the "payments zone" on the right to begin a bill payment (second screenshot).

Bottom line: While pushing a box around on a screen may not be faster than using a mouse in desktop online banking, it's an intuitive way to use an iPad app. Kudos to Westpac for incorporating it into their app.


Westpac (AU) iPad funds transfer (10 July 2012)
Simply drag the "from" account box over "to" account to begin the funds transfer


Westpac (AU) bill-payment process
Drag to "from" account over to the payment zone on the far right to begin a payment


Comments (3)

Personal Financial Management for Couples

By Jim Bruene on May 29, 2012 11:14 AM | Comments (2)

image Although, I've been married since Ghostbusters was in the theatres, I still (sort of) remember what it was like to have just one person's finances to manage. If I recall correctly, it went something like this:

Money in. Money out. Then hopefully, a dollar or two leftover.

But then you get married, and even if you have separate accounts (we don't), there is quite a bit more to it:

Money in. Discuss. Money out. Discuss. Oops, too much money out. Point fingers. Discuss a lot. Compromise. Try to do better next month.

imageAnd then you have kids and it gets even more complicated.

So why are PFMs all about the data and do little to help you collaborate about your money? Because they were mostly designed by single, urban, 20-somethings (I know that's not entirely true, but you get the point).

What we need is the "Facebook of PFMs" where you can share appropriate financial details with your spouse, family, parents and other financial stakeholders in your life (CPA, bank, advisor, etc). The same concept extends to businesses who have even more stakeholders to communicate with.

While I haven't seen anything that does this in the PFM space yet. There are some interesting web apps being developed that help couples sync their lives together. The first one I heard about was Pair, which has gotten quite a bit of press.

But there's a new entry, Toronto-based SimplyUs is more of an organizational tool that a photo sharing app (note 1). Right now it focuses on calendar and todo list sharing (screenshots inset & below). That's a great start, but an obvious next step is financial collaboration.

Bottom line: There is a large unmet need for collaboration tools linked to transaction accounts (for more info, see note 2). The opportunity is both for families and also micro and small businesses who will pay monthly fees for the service.

No tool can make financial management as simple as it was for our 23-year-old single self. But by harnessing the power of the synced mobile banking app, it should be much more manageable. 


SimplyUs iPhone app (25 May 2012)

 SimplyUs iphone app     image


1. For more info on SimplyUs, see last week's TechCrunch post. 
2. For more info on the importance of banking the kids, see our Online Banking Report on Family Banking (July 2011). For more on financial collaboration, see Bank Transaction Alerts & Streaming (July 2010). And finally, our last PFM report is here (May 2010; subscription required for all).

Comments (2)

Simple Releases First Mobile Banking App, Hits #13 in Finance Category of iPhone App Store

By Jim Bruene on May 15, 2012 7:02 PM | Comments

image The much-anticipated launch of the first truly virtual consumer bank is fast approaching. How do we know? From its tweets, of course (see inset).

Bank Simple tells a twitter follower when to expect a beta inviteCustomers who joined the wait list in 2010 are being told publically that they will receive invites "before spring is over." Others are being told "early summer," "mid-to-late summer," "early fall" and "fall."  Based on those responses, it looks the company plans to work through its entire 100,000 wait list within the next 6 months.

A critical piece of the grand opening is pushing the Simple mobile app past the gatekeepers at Apple. That happened last week (9 May). Within 48 hours, the app had already jumped to 13th-most-popular in the finance section, despite the fact that no one but a few early testers could actually use it. Today, it's fallen back to 53rd in the rankings.

In terms of how it works, all we can do now is drool over the half-dozen screenshots published in the store and on the Simple website. We especially like how they've anchored the forward-looking "Safe-to-Spend" balance in the top-center of every page (see below). The app also includes remote check deposit, something the startup has talked about before.

We'll look at it in much more detail once we get our Simple account, presumably in the next three to four weeks.


Simple mobile banking app, v1.3.1 (14 May 2011)   
Itemized transaction with                     Extra authentication code  
Safe-to-Spend balance on top               for higher-value transfers

image          image


Feature Friday: Wow! More City Bank Texas Mobile Controls for Debit Cards

By Jim Bruene on May 10, 2012 9:10 PM | Comments

imageLuckily, I ran into Jim Simpson, SVP IT at City Bank Texas, at Finovate Tuesday, or I might have missed his bank's significant new app update this week.

imageI am so impressed with what they are doing down there in Lubbock. First, it was the debit card on/off switch a few months ago. And now they just added three new control switches (see inset):

  • Increase daily withdrawal limit at the ATM
  • Increase daily debit card purchasing limit
  • Allow foreign transactions

All three controls temporarily increase limits so customers can easily approve their own authorization exceptions (within limits). 

Bottom line: Putting more control into the customers' hands is what mobile banking is all about. And City Bank has taken the lead.

But they are just getting started. From what Jim told me this week, they have plenty of other ideas in the hopper. Keep an eye on these guys. 

Update 17 May: I neglected to mention that the software is from Austin, TX-based Malauzai Software.


Feature Friday: Ally's Mobile Cash-Bank Finder & Call-Center-Hold-Time Meter

By Jim Bruene on May 4, 2012 11:02 AM | Comments

imageAlly Bank jumped into the mobile fray launching a pair of apps last week, one for customers with account access, and the other an "ATM & Cash-Back Finder," the anyone can use.

imageThe apps are well designed, as you'd expect from a direct bank with 1 million customers and $30 billion on deposit (note 1). But there were two novel features worth highlighting:

1. Real-time wait time in the call center: The mobile app contains a very prominent real-time indicator of just how long you'll be on hold if you call Ally Bank. I've already raved about the Website version of this feature, so I won't go into much detail. But it makes even more sense to place it front and center on an app on a mobile phone used to call the bank (see left screenshot below).   

2. Cash-back locations included with ATM finder: While I'm not sure if this is an industry first, but after a fairly extensive search in the Apple App Store came up empty, I know it's not common. Ally combines ATM locations and places where you can get cash back at the POS into a single map and/or list view (see right screenshot below).   

Ally mobile banking app                  Ally ATM & Cash Finder app 
for customers                                              for anyone                           

Call Ally feature in mobile app      Mobile map from Ally shows ATM and cash-back POS locations

Ally also makes sure its website visitors know they've gone mobile with a clever graphic in the middle-right of the homepage.

Ally homepage featuring new mobile offering (3 May 2012)

Ally Bank homepage announces new mobile apps


1. Ally announced the 1-million-customer milestone along with mobile apps (press release). Compared to a year ago, accounts were up 30% and deposits grew 25%.
2. While this could increase call-center calls, Ally must believe the customer advocacy positioning makes up for the increased costs.


First Look: U.S. Bank's New iPad App

By Jim Bruene on May 2, 2012 11:35 PM | Comments (2)

image Yesterday, U.S. Bank became the fifth top-10 United States bank to release an iPad app and only the second  to include remote check deposit (Chase was first). The new app is not listed on the bank's website yet, but became available in the Apple App Store on May 1.

I've been testing it for a day now and find it attractive, well laid out, and practical. It's a genuine native tablet app, and not an enlarged version of its iPhone app. 

Here's what I liked:

  • Remote deposit: A cool feature that creates a nice point of differentiation for now. 
  • Person-to-person payments (which I didn't test because I needed to first enroll online)
  • Different portrait vs. landscape mode looks: The layout changes slightly depending on what position you use the app.
  • Built-in calculator and calendar: The lower-right corner contains a calculator/calendar widget.
  • Pinned account summary: Account balances are displayed in the upper-right corner on all pages.
  • Offers section: The bank has created an offers area in the middle of the page. Presumably this is where the bank will display card-linked offers from its partnership with FreeMonee, along with bank-product specials. Unfortunately, it's empty, at least for my account (note 1). Unless, the box can be hidden, there should be at least one offer in it at all times (especially at app launch).
  • Contact info: The bank's phone number and email address are prominently displayed.
  • Integrated location map: In landscape mode, the nearest US Bank branch and ATM locations are always displayed in the upper right corner (note 2).
  • Branding/advertising in front of login: Not everyone who downloads your app, is ready and/or able to login. Talk to them. Service them.
  • Full site access via button in right-hand column. 

What's missing:

  • Simplified login: U.S. Bank's table login is 25% harder than its desktop banking login. It uses full username and password. There's no option to remember username. And unlike the desktop, where the curser is automatically positioned in the fields, tablet users must touch the empty box before typing.
  • Financial management/PFM: There is no ability to sort, annotate, or interact with the data in any way.
  • Chat: There is no way to interact in real time online.
  • Search: There is no way to search transactions or any other info.
  • Security assurances: No security section to assure users that it's safe to bank via tablet.
  • Content (other than account info): There is little content outside bank account info and the ATM/branch locator. 
  • Visual interest: The app is attractive and functional. However, it's fairly bland by iPad standards. Within the secure site, there are no photos, no interesting graphics, along with the aforementioned empty offers box.

Final grade: The app supports the brand, is easy to navigate and does a great job covering the important basics. Plus it has a few advanced features: offers, P2P payments, and remote deposit. Overall, I'll give it an A-. Nice work. 


U.S. Bank iPad app pre-login (2 May 2012)
Note: Graphical images promoting the bank and its remote deposit service


U.S. Bank iPad main "Accounts" page in landscape mode
Note: Empty "offers" box; link to full site; calculator in lower right

U.S. Bank iPad main "Accounts" page in landscape mode

U.S. Bank iPad main "Accounts" page in landscape mode
Note: Empty "offers" box

U.S. Bank iPad main "Accounts" page in landscape mode


1. I'm a long-time customer with six current accounts plus a closed home equity line.
2. While the map makes a nice visual, it doesn't have much use for the 97% of the time the user is logging in to mobile banking from their home or work. So it might be too prominent. This is only an issue in landscape mode. In portrait mode, the map is not displayed.
Comments (2)
Categories: Mobile Banking, US Bank

Design: Three Fixes Needed to Make Mobile Banking as Widely Used as a Weather App

By Jim Bruene on May 1, 2012 7:48 PM | Comments (4)

image Today I noticed something in Square's latest Card Case app that I'd missed when it was announced last month. It's a feature they call "tilt to map" which means that if you turn the phone sideways you see a map of nearby locations using Square (see inset, note 1).  

That's one of those slick, mobile tricks (like remote deposit) that you can't quite duplicate on the desktop. However, none of the mobile features have pulled me away from desktop banking, yet.

Why? Partly, it's because I have a laptop with me 24/7 and am almost always in a wifi zone. But even so, I've switched to mobile for most other low-bandwidth information services such as weather, traffic, maps, sports scores, movie times, Twitter feed, flight tracking, concert calendar, renting movies, and so on.

What will it take to get banking on this list?

Three fundamental issues need to be solved (with relative magnitude in parenthesis):

1. Make it much easier to login (60%)
None of of the mobile info services I use regularly require any type of login (after initial registration). Banks often allow the username to be saved, which helps, but the typical 8+ digit alphanumeric password is still not a good user experience on mobile. A four or five-digit numerical PIN would solve 80% of this problem. Or even better, install read-only access to certain data. 

2. Make it easier to navigate (30%)
There should be almost no navigation required to see my balance and transaction stream. Square's "tilt-to" function could be used by a bank to display account balances in portrait mode and a transaction stream in landscape.  

3. Provide security education & guarantees (10%)
This is not an issue for me. In general, I think mobile banking is more secure than desktop (see note 2). But the general public is still unsure about mobile security. You can change this by providing understandable security guarantees for mobile users.


1. ING Direct also uses the same trick, displaying links to its social media sites when the app is tilted to landscape mode.
2. For more improving security perceptions, see our latest Online Banking Report.

Comments (4)

Capital One Add Rewards to Mobile App, Includes Ability to Redeem for PREVIOUS Travel

By Jim Bruene on April 20, 2012 11:24 AM | Comments

Capital One mobile rewards main page Although it was one of the last major banks to launch an iPhone app, Capital One is now positioning itself to be a leader in mobile. Its April 5 iPhone app update included a new rewards function that's the best I've seen.

Rewards point totals are clearly shown on an old-school "flip number" display (see screenshot right). But the novel part, and this may be an industry first, is the ability to redeem rewards in real-time, for travel purchases you've ALREADY MADE. (You can also redeem for cash or gift cards.)

I thought this was some kind of typo when I first saw it in the marketing material. So I tested it myself this morning. And sure enough it does exactly what it says.

Previous travel purchases made on the Capital One card are displayed in the app. Users select the one(s) they want to redeem for mileage points and Capital One provides a statement credit to refund the user for the purchase. Brilliant!


Capital One's mobile reward redemption for previous travel (20 April 2012)
Note: Select a transaction (below left), confirm (below right).

Capital One mobile rewards screen      Capital One mobile rewards redemption confirm      


imageI also like Capital One's new app "home page." Instead of forcing a login before users can do anything, the bank offers several non-secure content areas:

  • Browse our products
  • Find branch/ATM
  • Mobile banking FAQ
  • Contact us

These are useful for customers who can't or don't want to log in. And of course, for prospects kicking the "mobile tires" at the bank.


Mobile Banking & Payments by the Numbers

By Jim Bruene on April 10, 2012 10:39 AM | Comments

Statement rewards provider and BillShrink parent, Truaxis, published a nice summary of mobile banking and payments on its blog (reprinted with permission below).

A few Industry Players metrics at the bottom of the infographic have recently been updated:

  • Starbucks said this week it has processed 42 million mobile payments, up from 26 million (Venture Beat, 9 April 2012)
  • Square has now shipped 1 million readers, up from 500,000; and is now processing $11 million per day, up from $4 mil (Splatf, 5 March 2012)

Mobile banking & payment infographic


Out of the Inbox: Mobile Banking Marketing Messages from Wells Fargo and Bank of America

By Jim Bruene on March 29, 2012 7:31 PM | Comments

image Yesterday was mobile day in my inbox. In the span of two hours, both Wells Fargo and Bank of America hit me up with email reminders of how great their mobile services were. 

Of the two, Wells Fargo's was the more interesting, telling me about its revamped, mobile-optimized site, <> (see first screenshot). But since I've been using their iPhone app for three years, I'm not sure why I'd be super-interested in its mobile site.

In fact, the message is confusing for app users. Until I reread it for this blog post, I thought the bank was touting a new and improved app, which I was looking forward to checking out.

Bank of America's message was completely generic, saying that mobile banking is secure, convenient, and customized. And the call to action was to download its app, which I did almost four years ago, so I'm not sure why I received this message (note 1). I have also used the bank's iPad app and Kindle app.

Bottom line: The email messages were well-designed and short, so the creative scores well. But the targeting was sub-par, especially BofA, which seemed to completely miss the mark. And while Wells Fargo's message could have been better adapted for app users, the bank gets points for acknowledging that I use the mobile channel (note 2). 


Wells Fargo customer email (28 March 2012, 11:37 AM Pacific)
From address:
Note: Account holder name blurred out.

Wells Fargo customer email

Bank of America general mobile banking customer email (28 March 2012, 1:34 PM)
From address:


1. A month ago I had to replace my BofA card (again!) due to fraud, so possibly this was a misguided on-boarding message.
2. The Wells Fargo message was clearly targeted to mobile users: "Thanks to suggestions from mobile users like you."


Westpac NZ Makes it Mobile Savings Transfers Easy with Impulse Saver

By Jim Bruene on March 20, 2012 8:42 PM | Comments

image There are two schools of thought when it comes to mobile app design:

  1. Put everything in a single app for each platform (note 1), so your customers aren't confused about which app to download
  2. Create specialized apps for various market segments and/or apps that focus on a single function

American Express (7 for iOS, note 2); JP Morgan Chase (3 for iOS); Zions Bank (3 for iOS); Southern Bancorp (2 for iOS); and a handful of other banks have launched multiple apps. But it's still the exception: More than 99% of banks have no more than one app for each platform. 

Westpac NZ has joined the multi-app group, though oddly it has yet to launch a full-featured mobile banking app (note 3). Yesterday, we wrote about Westpac's clever Cash Tank, that provides a no-login gauge to monitor account balances.

The bank has another cool single-use app, Impulse Saver, which is basically just one huge red button that users press to make a transfer from their checking account to a savings account.

obr_bestofwebThe amount of each transfer, from $2 to $50, is preset using the app settings (see second screenshot).

Bottom line: With Impulse Saver and Cash Tank, Westpac NZ has raised the bar for simple no-login mobile banking, earning an OBR Best of the Web (note 4).  

Westpac's Impulse Saver iPhone app (20 March 2012)

 image     image


1. By single app, we mean one app per major platform, i.e., one app for iPhones, one for Android, one for iPad, etc.
2. In addition, American Express offers at least six more content apps through American Express publishing.
3. A number of reviewers in Apple's App Store have been criticized for not having a full-featured app. For example, in June 2011 "crazfulla" wrote, "This is a great idea; however, we need a real app that has all the banking capabilities."
4. Since 1997, our Online Banking Report has periodically given OBR Best of the Web awards to companies that pioneer new online or mobile banking features. It is not an endorsement of the company or product, just recognition for what we believe is an important industry development. If anyone knows of other financial institutions offering a similar feature, let us know and we'll update the post. Westpac is is the 86th company to win the award and the third in 2012. Recent winners are profiled in the Netbanker archives.


Cash Tank from Westpac NZ, a Mobile No-Login Balance Display

By Jim Bruene on March 19, 2012 6:10 PM | Comments (1)

image As mobile banking approaches its fourth birthday (note 1), we are starting to see the more interesting "version 2.0" builds from the major players. Last week, we looked at Commonwealth Bank's Simple Balance, with its pull-down balance option.

Customers don't want to spend more than a few seconds retrieving their balance when on the go, so the no-login option imagesignificantly improves the mobile banking user experience.

In response to that post, several readers pointed out the recently launched app from Westpac New Zealand unit. The app, Cash Tank, is an elegant solution to the same need. It's a full standalone app that does just one thing, shows the balance in the selected account on a "fuel gauge" (see first screenshot below). 

Users set their own high and low settings so the gauge could show empty when there is still a cash cushion remaining. And users have the option of showing the actual dollar amount available or simply relying on the gauge reading for more privacy. The Cash Tank can show the balance from just one account.  

Under the gauge is a link to the bank's mobile website where users must log in to conduct transaction. The bank does not currently offer a full-featured mobile app in New Zealand (note 2).

The app is available for iPhone and Android. 

Update Mar 20: We are awarding Westpac an OBR Best of the Web for its Cash Tank and Impulse Saver apps (Mar 21 post).

Update Mar 21: I neglected to mention that Southern Bancorp launched a no-login savings balance app a year ago called "Shake to Bank."


Cash Tank from Westpac NZ is a standalone mobile gauge to your account balance (link)

image           image    

Cash Tank is featured on the Westpac NZ homepage (21 Mar 2012)



1. The dawn of the industry, at least in the United States, was in July 2008 when Apple opened the iPhone to third-party apps. There were huge strides made around the globe, e.g. M-Pesa, much earlier. But we're referring here to the modern smartphone-based services.
2. A full-featured mobile banking app has been available to Westpac Australia customers since Dec 2008. But it does not offer the read-only Cash Tank option. 

Comments (1)

Commonwealth Bank's Kaching App Has No-Login Option, Simple Balance

By Jim Bruene on March 15, 2012 10:38 AM | Comments

imageThere are two problems with the current state of online/mobile login:

  • It's too hard for customers to log in to their own accounts, especially using mobile keyboards
  • Yet, it's too easy for crooks to log in to other people's accounts

Since the dawn of online banking, the industry has struggled to balance user experience with security. And tiny mobile keyboards make the login experience even more frustrating.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

A number of banks are using 4-digit passcodes making mobile login a breeze. But Commonwealth Bank (Australia) has gone one step further, with no-login pulldown access to account balances in its new Kaching (ka-ching) mobile app (note 2). 
(Update 16 Mar: New Zealand's Westpac also has a no-login mobile option called Cash Tank). 

obr_bestofwebCommonwealth calls the no-login option Simple Balance. With a quick swipe users pull down a read-only account balance (see screenshot below). The no-login option must be  enabled within the app before the first use. See it in action here (at the 29-second and 54-second marks).

We are awarding Simple Balance our second OBR Best of the Web award for the year (note 3). While it may not be as novel as City Bank's debit card on/off switch, it's likely to be used 100x more.

Bottom line: Requiring full username and password to see your account balance is antiquated, or at least it's rapidly headed that way. The four-digit PIN is a good first step. But ultimately, it needs to get even easier than that for low-risk activities (note 4).


A single swipe on the top of the Kaching app allows users to download their account balance (click to enlarge, see note 2)

Pull down Simple Balance on Commonwealth Kaching


1. Many thanks to Australian reader Saif Hazarika, Innovation Manager at Australia Post, for clueing us in on the Kaching feature and creating the illustration above.
Facebook integration into Kaching's P2P payments area2. The Financial Brand published a good overview of Kaching several weeks ago.
3. Since 1997, our Online Banking Report has periodically given OBR Best of the Web awards to companies that pioneer new online or mobile banking features. It is not an endorsement of the company or product, just recognition for what we believe is an important industry development. If anyone knows of other financial institutions offering a similar feature, let us know and we'll update the post. Commonwealth Bank is is the 85th company to win the award and the second in 2012. Recent winners are profiled in the Netbanker archives.
4. USAA's "stay logged in" option is another promising approach, though not quite as user friendly as the Kaching swipe.
5. The Kaching app (inset, click to enlarge) includes integration to the user's Facebook friends to facilitate P2P payments. A cool feature that I will add to the 50 or so discussed in last month's Banking on Facebook report (OBR subscription).


Mobile Banking Increases Need for Read-Only Account Access

By Jim Bruene on March 9, 2012 12:28 PM | Comments (2)

image It had been a while since I'd logged in to from my iPhone and I had forgotten just how easy it is. The online PFM pioneer has boiled the process down to the bare minimum (assuming you've enabled "passcodes," see note 1).

Logging in takes just four numerical "keystrokes." You don't even have to press a login or done button (inset). As soon as you press the last digit, you are automatically logged in.

As an added bonus, PIN authentication is handled on the phone instead of the server, so you get an immediate error message if you type in the wrong one.It's a great user experience, though I wish Mint still supported the stay-logged-in option, which is fine when accessing a "read only" data file (note 2).

This brings me to my main point (finally!). Banks need a "read-only" account access option (note 3). Than means no account numbers are shown. No check images are accessible. No personal info is available. And of course, you can't perform any transactions (note 4). And the read-only password should be different than the "normal" one.

The read-only option would make customers feel more secure about banking online, especially from:

  • Mobile phones
  • Tablets
  • Wifi hotspots
  • Hotel rooms
  • Friend's house
  • Public terminals
  • Home (if you don't trust your own network)
  • PFM or third-party programs (note 3)

With read-only services, bank security folk can ease up on unwieldy password requirements for mobile access. And it might even prevent a crook or two from gaining full account access due.


1. The four-digit PIN option is for users that have enabled passcodes for login from the Settings area in the app. Otherwise, users must enter their full Mint username and password.  
2. While it's a privacy concern, read-only account access with no login should be an option for a PFM. Of course, you must make it absolutely clear to users the danger of non-password protected data.
3. ING Direct offers read-only access to PFM programs
4. Funds transfers among existing accounts or even to existing billers could be OK, but it muddies the waters a bit from the perspective of the user.

Comments (2)

Op Ed: Rise of the Feenix

By Jim Bruene on January 19, 2012 5:23 PM | Comments (2)

by Michael Nuciforo

Editor's note: This post was written by Michael Nuciforo, a Mobile Banking Consultant at Keatan. He previously worked at ANZ on a number of developments, including goMoney, and more recently was Head of Mobile Banking at RBS managing the UK Retail portfolio.

image Banks has perfected what I refer to as the ‘negative pricing model.’ In simple terms, fees are charged when customers make mistakes. We are all familiar with it. It is the annoying cost of returning a DVD late, or staying too long in your parking space.

At present, banks rely significantly on revenue generated from fees when customers fall afoul of their terms and conditions. Amongst all the doom and gloom of regulatory pressure, the euro debt crises, and record low margins, could mobile banking be the right service to implement a ‘positive pricing model’?

Tiered charges for access to additional features and content have become common due to the popularity of games such as FarmVille and Sims. This is great news for banks as the market has likely reached the right point of innovation, access and acceptance to allow for the monetization of mobile banking.

Now that most banks have launched first-generation mobile services, new features are perfect for tiered pricing. Areas such as NFC payments and remote deposit-capture are a great place to start. They are tangibly more convenient than existing processes, and are designed to leverage the specific capabilities of a mobile device.

But can banks pull this off? Or will it just be seen as yet another annoying banking fee?

When implementing a pricing model, banks need to be clear about their strategy and objectives. For the model to work, it is critical that unique, mobile-specific services are delivered to warrant the cost. And banks shouldn’t charge for services that they already offer for free today. This will only anger existing users. They should also avoid charging for services available in other channels for free, although some exceptions could apply. Banks need pricing that is fair, transparent and that rewards loyalty as well.

Any new fee will disappoint some customers. Banks should also expect negative media attention at first. This will happen any time bank and fee are included in the same sentence. Banks need to be proactive about engaging regulators during the process and communicating actively to customers. It is important that fees are integrated seamlessly into the customer journey. Regular enhancements should also be made to the service. Success will ultimately rely on the quality of new features.

With traditional revenue streams under attack, and investment in mobile growing, pressure will come on mobile leaders to justify the costs. The honeymoon period for mobile banking will be tested at some stage. Customer retention and transaction migration are fine, but are they enough for your senior executives? And can they be accurately proven?

With customers now familiar with this pricing model in other facets of their everyday life, it is important that banks also take the opportunity to do this now. Otherwise mobile banking, like online banking, will become a free channel for life.

Comments (2)

Mobile: USAA Introduces "Stay Logged On" Option for iPhone App

By Jim Bruene on November 30, 2011 4:30 PM | Comments (3)

imageI'm not sure if this is normal or not, but I enjoy the process of updating the 100-some apps on my iPhone. I'm always interested in what's changed and how the company communicates the new info to users. I've noted before that banks aren't good at leveraging this customer touchpoint, but they are getting better.

USAA mobile banking update v4.0 wit "stay logged on" In the latest round of app updates, I noticed a nice improvement from USAA (see inset; note 1). Instead of automatically logging you off whenever you move out of the app, say to take a call or fire off a text, the bank provides the option of staying logged in for up to 20 minutes.

Sure, there's a tiny risk that if you were to lose your phone or loan it to someone during that time, they could get into your account. But your average smartphone thief is unlikely to click on the USAA button during those first 20 minutes. And even if they did, it's unlikely they could do much with the info.

Bottom line: I want this option on all my banking apps.


1. This iPhone update (v. 4.0) was pushed out, 8 Nov 2011
2. For more on mobile banking, see our subscription publication, Online Banking Report.

Comments (3)

Pageonce Adds Billpay; Showcases Multiple Mobile Apps on Single Page

By Jim Bruene on October 24, 2011 5:54 PM | Comments

image Last week, we looked at how Square makes a single webpage look great across various mobile platforms. Today, we look at the exact opposite problem. How to showcase your various mobile apps on a single webpage. 

Pageonce does it as well as we've seen, using a single showcase panel that includes all five of its mobile app platforms across the top: iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry and Windows. Users can scroll horizontally to see two sets of screenshots for each platform.

The company also includes version number, date of the last update, and app size in the lower right corner. And of course, there's a link to download the appropriate marketplace to download the app. The Android page uses a QR code instead of a link.

In other news, Pageonce added bill payment to its iPhone and Android app today, moving ahead of Mint in the features arm race. The new Gold service, which we haven't tested yet, is priced at $4.99/mo, good news for fee-starved online financial providers. Mint says it has bill payment coming too. It will be interesting to see if they put a fee on it.

Relevance for Netbankers: The addition of transactional services such as bill payment makes third-party PFMs, or virtual banks such as BankSimple, bigger threats to mainstream banks and credit unions. As uber-consultant Richard Crone always says, "He who enrolls, controls."


Pageonce iPhone app

Pageonce iphone app showcased on its website


Pageonce on ipad


Pageonce on Android


Pageonce on BlackBerry


Pageonce on windows phone


Note: We cover mobile banking and payments periodically in our Online Banking Report (subscription).


PG&E's Convenient Mobile Bill Payment App

By Jim Bruene on September 26, 2011 5:37 PM | Comments

image Skimming my news feeds in the post-Finovate logjam, I flagged a news release about a new app that just landed in the Android Market (the iPhone version rolled out last December). The app allows Californians to easily pay their PG&E power bills from their mobile phone using a credit/debit card or checking/savings account. It's powered by Tio Networks

And while you'd think that three years into mobile app era, there'd be hundreds, if not thousands of similar apps, a quick search of the Apple App Store came up empty (see note 1). 

The app is drop-dead simple to use, as it should be (see screenshots below). The amount owed (across multiple PG&E accounts if necessary) is shown. Then, users select payment method, "sign" the screen with their finger, and submit. An email confirms the transaction.

TIO levies a $1.45 transaction fee per payment (well disclosed, see second screenshot below), which is a buck more than a stamp, but it also gives customers the option of paying by card, something that can't be done in the mail, online or in person. And payments received by 5pm are posted the same day, an important benefit for the large segment of the population that prefers to pay bills at the last minute.

Summary: Company specific same-day billpay apps are a great convenience for the majority of customers who pay their bill upon receipt (rather than relying on automated options). We expect to see many more like this. FIs and payment processors that serve billers would be wise to help them mobilize their payments.


PG&E mobile billpay screenshots (iPhone version)

image  image  image

image    image


1. There are likely at least a few others that I didn't find. The app search tools are not super sophisticated.
2. As of 7 July 2011, there are more than 425,000 available apps and more than 15 billion cumulative downloads.


ANZ's Mobile Banking App is So Well Integrated, it Almost Feels Like Apple Built It

By Jim Bruene on September 2, 2011 6:04 PM | Comments (2)

image image I look at lot of mobile banking apps. But there are several thousand in the U.S. alone, so I'm not going to claim that I know which one is "best" or even who should be in the top-100.

But I will say, of the mobile banking apps I'm familiar with, ANZ Bank's is right up at the top. Kudos to the bank and Fiserv's M-Com unit that helped with development.  

Why is it so good? It's full featured, of course. But it's the first banking app that feels like it runs WITHIN the iPhone instead of being bolted on. It's almost like what Apple would have done if it was building a banking app right into the operating system (notes 1, 2, 3).  

I especially like how the person-to-person payments function integrates with iPhone Contacts. And how iPhone's photo gallery can be used throughout the app to illustrate goals and payees with your pictures (click on inset above for a better view) and to store bill payment-receipts (see screenshot below).

But never mind what I think, look at actual customer usage. According to a July 15 investor presentation, in the year since it was released, the ANZ goMoney already accounts for 26% of the bank's total online traffic. If ANZ mobile can continue that pace for another 12 months, it will surpass regular PC-based online traffic by this time next year.   


ANZ goMoney demo video is definitely worth two minutes of your time
Note: Clickthrough below to ANZ website and play the video (the version on YouTube is the older version of the app)

Demo video of ANZ goBanking iPhone app

1. Hyperbole alert. It's Friday afternoon, so I may be getting a bit carried away. But I stand by the opinion.  
2. I don't have an ANZ account, so I'm basing my observations on the superb demo video, complete with Apple-esque soundtrack (see screenshot above).

Comments (2)

Bank of America Sponsoring Free Wi-Fi for Smartphones on Alaska Airlines Flights

By Jim Bruene on August 9, 2011 6:34 PM | Comments (1)

imageA few days ago I was on a Chicago-Seattle flight on Alaska Airlines and was surprised to hear an overhead announcement about Bank of America sponsoring free wi-fi on the flight. But it came with a catch, the free access applied only to smartphones (notes 1, 2).

While I'm a big user of airborne wi-fi on my laptop, there isn't much I want to do on a smartphone connection at 35,000 feet. But my curiosity got the best of me, so I gave it a shot and found the free connection was delivered as promised. I had simply to type in my email address, agree to the terms and conditions, and hit the big blue button (see first screenshot).

It didn't take me long to figure out why BofA was being so generous. The second page of the sign-on process included a full-page ad for the bank's Alaska Airlines affinity card (see second screenshot).

My take: Sponsored wi-fi is an effective way to reach the lucrative smartphone-carrying market. But the credit card application user experience was flawed. The bank dumps the whole app and disclosures onto a single mobile webpage, which required scrolling down about eight screens' worth of info (see screenshots 3, 4, and 5). And the fonts were way too small to engage most users.

If BofA were to build a proper mobile-optimized credit card application form, they'd likely increase app volume two- to three-fold. In the meantime, the bank should add an option for the user to request a full-sized app to be completed later on their laptop. 

1. First screen of free wi-fi promotion on Alaska Airlines (7 Aug. 2011)

1. First screen of free wi-fi promotion on Alaska Airlines

2. BofA credit card solicitation on page 2 of the login process

2. BofA credit card solicitation on page 2 of the login process

3, 4, 5: The rest of the mobile application (click to enlarge)
Note: This shows only the beginning of the disclosures; the full text ran several more screens down the page.

image  image  image


1. I didn't test it, but I assume it would have been free on the iPad as well.
2. I believe they said the offer would continue through the month of August.

Comments (1)

Mobile Banking Changes Everything, or Nothing

By Jim Bruene on August 2, 2011 3:32 PM | Comments (1)


I've been thinking about mobile delivery a lot in the last few years. Two years ago, I opened presentations with "mobile is the new online." But lately I've changed that line to: 

Mobile is the new a better online

Equating mobile banking to online is selling it short. Really, it's much better than online. I believe that in the not-too-distant future (i.e., 10 years out), we'll come to look at online as an extension of mobile, not the other way around.

Here's why mobile is not only better than online, but also changes everything about remote delivery: 

  • Mobile knows where you are
  • Mobile is with you all the time
  • Mobile has a voice option (duh)
  • Mobile can be more secure
  • Mobile can interrupt you (text message, on-screen alerts)
  • Mobile can use the accelerometer (shake to log in)
  • Mobile has a camera and an input device
  • Mobile will be able to communicate directly with other devices (NFC)
  • Mobile will allow you to pay at the POS and be your primary wallet and ID too

No doubt, your product folks have their work cut out for them integrating mobile into all that you do. Yet, despite all the hype, mobile changes nothing about your underlying banking business:

  • Everyone will offer it, so you won't gain market share
  • Everyone will price it the same, so you won't gain incremental profits
  • Customers will expect it, so you won't improve customer satisfaction

Bottom line: Ultimately, banks will win or lose based on how well they execute on gathering deposits, making loans, facilitating transactions/payments, servicing customers effectively, and pricing it all correctly (note 1). 


1. Graphic image from Chase (click on it to go to the site)
2. And I thought of adding, "keeping regulators happy." But that probably goes without saying these days.

Comments (1)
Categories: Mobile Banking, Strategies

MoveNbank: Can it Out-simplify BankSimple?

By Jim Bruene on July 11, 2011 6:02 PM | Comments

image I've been accused of falling for the Bank Simple hype. Just to prove that I don't discriminate, I bring you MoveNBank, a mobile-optimized banking startup founded by Bank 2.0 author and consultant Brett King.

From what little is disclosed on its Facebook page, Twitter feed and Startuply profile I've assembled the following facts:


  • Founded July 2010
  • Private beta to begin soon (per 1 July 2011 Tweet)
  • Soft launch scheduled for July 2012


  • Global startup with HQ in NYC (Madison Square Park, 25 W. 31st)
  • Founder and Chairman is Brett King
  • 8 employees

Product description:

  • Mobile only, with no paper or plastic
  • NFC-enabled app
  • Incorporates "gamification" in UX
  • According to Startuply, "reinventing credit scores and more with an open, social transparent, and viral model" (sounds P2P lending-esque)

Bottom line: MoveNbank is looking to leapfrog the competition by removing all vestiges of old-school banking. No branches (of course). No paper (no surprise). And no plastic (what?).

That's how ING Direct got its start (they did have paper statements), so it's not unprecedented. But if MoveNbank plans on offering payments, it will be harder to pull off. But with a soft-launch still a year away, it should be able to ride the NFC wave expected to roll across the globe in the next five years.

Are there any other remote banking startups I'm missing? Drop me an email (


MoveNbank placeholder page (11 July 2011)



TD Bank Uses Interactive Online Banner Ad to Capture Mobile Numbers

By Jim Bruene on July 5, 2011 7:56 PM | Comments (1)

image I was reading one of my favorite personal finance blogs today, Lazy Man and Money, and I noticed an intriguing ad from TD Bank. Actually, the blog is covered in TD ads, with the faces of spokescouple Regis & Kelly peering out from every corner.

But originally I noticed only the ad in the upper-right corner (see first screenshot below). The mobile interactivity, along with the 10 spaces asking for my number, grabbed my attention. 

The text-message campaign is powered by Cielo Mobile, whose URL was displayed in the browser status bar after I clicked the banner.


How it works 

1a. Users type their mobile number into the interactive banner ad (upper-right).


1b. The banner returns this thank-you message:


2. The link in the text message (left) opens the mobile webpage (right).

image     image

3. The app is downloaded from the iTunes App Store and this is the first screen at launch:




Apparently, I'm not the target audience for this banner ad since I don't have an account at TD Bank. But if inclined to change that, I'd like a little more help opening an account. The bank does better than most by including links to its call center and webpage on the first screen of its native iPhone app (see #3 above), but there should be a direct call to action, or even a different app, for non-customers. 

Comments (1)

TDECU Posts 50% Growth in Mobile Banking Users in 2 Months

By Jim Bruene on June 26, 2011 11:45 PM | Comments

This guest post was written by Daniel Thomas, a 25-year strategy and product development veteran of the financial services industry. He is a principal consultant with Mindful Insights LLC.

imageBack in April, we showed you the list of the 30 most popular iPad apps from U.S. banks and other financial services companies listed on iTunes. The list featured the usual big names, but one surprise was #14, Texas Dow Employees Credit Union (TDECU), a 132,000 member, 19-branch, $1.6B credit union headquartered in Lake Jackson, TX.

The app, UniFI, available on iPad, iPhone and Android platforms, was developed by startup FI-Mobile. The full-featured offering includes:

  • All the banking functions offered in online banking
  • Linkage to Facebook and Twitter
  • Branch locations
  • Rates
  • Advertising capabilities
  • Analytics

FI Mobile says it can launch the app in three weeks for FIs that already have a mobile banking application, and seven weeks if they have to develop a native app.



TDECU mobile login screen Clicking on Mobile Banking from the home screen launches the WAP service developed by Q2ebanking (note 1).

TDECU mobile rate lookup Both the Locations screen and the Check Our Rates page fetch real-time content from tables that the bank or credit union maintain in FI Mobile's advanced-content management system (admin tool). 

TDECU mobile intergration with Facebook and Twitter

TDECU has an active social network presence, so Facebook and Twitter integration facilitates more frequent views and comments.

The app also includes contact information, rates, and access to TDECU credit cards through



According to Brad Clutter, Online Banking Product Manager at TDECU, in the first two months after the app's launch in March, mobile subscribers grew 50% (their target was 10%) and the number of mobile transactions (balance inquiries, transfers, etc.) grew 30% compared to their existing WAP-only, mobile-banking program. He said, "We have been blown away by the results we've seen, and they have more than justified the cost."

Thanks to FI Mobile's analytics, TDECU can now see that their app is being used by members in all 50 states and in 16 different countries. They know that 84% are returning users and use of Android devices outnumbers Apple iOS nearly 2-to-1.


1. UniFI is vendor agnostic and will launch the mobile banking program developed by any vendor. And if you don't have one, FI Mobile will develop one.

Categories: Mobile Banking

Chase Bank's Jot App Shows the Future of Mobile Transaction Processing

By Jim Bruene on June 8, 2011 7:54 PM | Comments (2)

image image I've been waiting for something like Chase Bank's Jot (see note 1). It's part of the "second wave" of mobile apps that demonstrate why mobile banking will soon be better than online banking.

Mobile banking phase 1: 2008 through 2011

Mobile's first wave was all about porting the most-used online functions, balance inquiry and statement viewing, to a smaller screen. That was convenient for smartphone owners on the go, but it didn't add much to the overall user experience. 

The test of whether you've nailed the mobile UX is if that even if you are within arm's reach of your laptop, you still pick up the mobile to perform a function. Most mobile banking systems fail that test, i.e. you only use mobile banking when online access is inconvenient or insecure.

Mobile banking phase 2: 2011+

The second wave is much more interesting. Your mobile phone can do financial chores that simply cannot be accomplished online, for example:

  • Deposit a paper check via mobile camera (USAA, Chase, PayPal and many more)
  • Transfer money to your friend by "bumping" phones (PayPal, ING Direct)
  • Alert you to special merchant offers in your exact location that are redeemable simply by using your bankcard (BankOns)
  • Pay your bill automatically by scanning the billing statement (Mitek)
  • Upload paper receipts and append them to expense reports (Expensify)

And the latest addition to that list:

  • Receive feed of transactions and tag them with categories for future reference and reporting (Chase Jot)


How Jot works

Chase's new app (announced 1 June 2011) may not be as cool as remotely depositing a check, but it's much more useful for most cardholders. The iPhone and Android app, which is currently available only for the bank's Ink business credit card, sends push notifications of each transaction (see inset) and enables users to (relatively) quickly append transactions with category information, i.e. "tag" transactions. 

image One key Jot feature, missing in most mobile banking services, is a running list of the transactions waiting to be tagged (see right).

That way, when the business owner has a few spare moments, they can quickly get caught up with their categorizing work. This ongoing attention will reduce the quarterly game of "what's that transaction" played when finalizing the company books.

So not only does Jot save time, it potentially improves the quality of the accounting data, always a good thing for business management. 

The app also includes other business credit card management functions such as basic reports by tag, the ability to change employee credit limits, and info on outstanding balances and payment due dates.

While the functionality is still pretty basic (e.g., there is no way to add more than one tag to a transaction), there are only 60 days of transactions available, and login needs to be simplified, overall Jot is a winner. We are tagging it with an A-.


1. The Jot landing page is well done and includes a series of four short demo videos.
2. For OBR subscribers, see our previous Online Banking Reports on mobile banking and payments.

Comments (2)

First Look: Bank of America's Just-Launched iPad App

By Jim Bruene on May 3, 2011 5:12 AM | Comments

image A little more than a year after the iPad launched, Bank of America finally made it their own with a native app. It appeared in the iTunes store around midnight last night and has already climbed to #42 on the list of most popular free apps across all categories (5 PM Pacific; see update below and notes 1, 2).

I took it for a spin a few minutes ago and it's about what you'd expect for the first version. The most important functions are all there: view recent transactions, transfer funds, pay bills, find ATM/branch locations, and contact customer service. It also includes the ability to apply for a new account within the app, something that is still relatively rare (and not included in the bank's iPhone app).

Analysis: Overall, it's a solid, if somewhat tardy, initial effort and will be adequate for most users. However, BofA has a reputation for being an online leader, and there is nothing in the app so far that supports that brand positioning. But, then again, simply having an iPad app puts it ahead of most competitors (see list of top banking apps as of last week).

A few other notable features:

  • Users have the option to store their username, so subsequent logins can be accomplished by simply entering a password (screenshot 1)
  • Pressing anywhere on a line item in the statement brings up a small popup with additional transaction detail (screenshot 2)
  • While it won't win any design awards, the app gets a passing grade with an overall look and feel that is consistent with other iPad apps with relatively intuitive navigation. At least it's not simply an expanded version of its iPhone app (like the Chase iPad app)

It also disappoints in a few areas:

  • I tried to pay my credit card bill, but the iPad app doesn't support payment via external checking account (regular online banking does)
  • It times out after 10 minutes (good), but leaves your account balances visible until you dismiss the popup (screenshot 4)
  • I was not able to access business credit card statement data (system unavailable) but was able to get personal card data
  • The squares didn't quite fit the screen right in portrait mode (screenshot 4)

Update: At 11 PM Pacific, the BofA app has reached #22 among all free iPad apps.

1. Initial iPad app sign in (3 May 2011)

 Bank of America iPad app login screen

2. Transaction details popup

  Bank of America iPad app transaction details

3. New account app

Bank of America iPad app: New account app

4. Time-out warning still shows account balances


1. The app still shows up as #32 in the finance category. So clearly, the top list among all apps is refreshed more often than the individual category lists.  
2. There is no mention of the app on the bank's website as of 5 PM.
3. For more info on mobile banking, see our previous Online Banking Reports.


ING Direct Adds Phone-to-Phone Mobile Payments Powered by Bump Technologies

By Jim Bruene on May 2, 2011 7:59 PM | Comments

imageI've always admired ING Direct's focus on deposit accounts primarily sold and serviced through the Internet. While the bank has diversified into checking accounts, mortgages, and investments during the ten years since it launched, the core website look and feel is virtually unchanged (see 2001 version here). 

So I was more than a bit surprised to learn this weekend that ING Direct became the second U.S. financial institution to add Bump-powered phone-to-phone payments to its iPhone app. PayPal was first, adding the feature more than a year ago.

Bottom line: Evidently, with "high-yield savings" stuck at 1%, the giant direct bank needs to be a little more creative on the feature side to attract new business. While bump-to-pay will eventually be replaced with direct communications via NFC or other technologies, it's a nice addition that positions ING Direct as a mobile leader.

Bump is now one of two choice on the P2P menu on ING Direct's iPhone app (2 May 2011)

Bump is now one of two choice on the P2P menu on ING Direct's iPhone app (2 May 2011)      Bump is now one of two choice on the P2P menu on ING Direct's iPhone app (2 May 2011) 

Bump is now one of two choice on the P2P menu on ING Direct's iPhone app (2 May 2011) 


Note: For more info on mobile banking, see our previous Online Banking Reports.


65 Most Popular iPhone Apps from U.S. Banks and Other Financial Services Companies

By Jim Bruene on April 26, 2011 6:49 PM | Comments

image This is a followup to last week's 30 most popular iPad apps. Unlike the iPad, most major financial institutions have had an iPhone app for a year or longer. So the most-popular list reads pretty much like a who's who of U.S. banking.


  • Only 16 (25%) of the top-65 also have iPad apps
  • 36 (55%) apps are from banks representing 29 unique banks (i.e., 7 apps are second or third ones from the same bank)
  • 15 apps (23%) are from credit unions
  • Banks/card issuers command 6 of the top 10 spots (7 if you count PayPal)
  • The highest credit union is #23, Navy Federal Credit Union; Suncoast Schools FCU is second highest at #35

Methodology: Using an iPhone in the late afternoon today, I accessed the Free apps in the Finance category of the Apple App Store and sorted by "Most Popular." I included apps only from U.S. financial institutions or from third parties that tap directly into financial institution data using account aggregation (e.g., from Yodlee, CashEdge, etc.). Pure content apps, like ING Direct's ATM Finder, were not included even if from a financial institution.

Note: The first column below is the rank among all financial institutions (as defined above). The second column in the app's rank within the entire App Store "finance" category. And the third column is the rank of that company's iPad app, if they have one.

Table: 65 Most-Popular U.S. Banking Apps

FI Rank Finance Rank iPad Rank Company
1 1 -- Bank of America
2 2 4 Chase bank
3 3 -- Wells Fargo
4 4 -- PayPal
5 5 -- Capital One
6 6 1, 5 Pageonce
7 9 --
8 10 -- American Express
9 12 2 Square
10 14 8 USAA
11 15 -- Citibank
12 17 -- Regions Bank
13 18 -- Discover
14 19 -- TD Bank
15 20 -- PNC Bank
16 21 9 Fidelity Investments
17 23 6 E*Trade
18 24 -- ING Direct
19 25 -- SunTrust
20 26 -- US Bank
21 27 -- Schwab
22 30 -- PNC Virtual Wallet
23 32 -- Navy Federal Credit Union
24 35 7 TD Ameritrade
25 43 -- Barclaycard
26 44 22 BB&T
27 47 -- ShareBuilder (ING Direct)
28 48 -- Citizens Bank (RBS)
29 52 -- Vanguard
30 58 -- JP Morgan
31 66 -- M&T Bank
32 67 24 BBVA Compass
33 70 11 Expensify
34 78 15 Merrill Lynch, My Merrill
35 82 -- Suncoast Schools FCU
36 89 -- TCF Bank
37 93 -- Arvest Bank
38 103 -- SchoolsFirst FCU
39 105 14 TDECU
40 108 -- Charter One (RBS)
41 109 10 thinkorswim (TD Ameritrade)
42 110 -- RBFCU
43 113 -- Wings Financial Credit Union
44 121 20 Merrill Lynch, Edge
45 122 -- Union Bank
46 124 -- Safe Credit Union
47 125 -- Service Credit Union
48 140 -- Comerica Bank
49 141 -- BECU
50 143 -- Zecco
51 151 -- DCU
52 158 -- NetSpend
53 160 -- Tyndall FCU
54 161 -- Golden 1
55 162 -- America First Credit Union
56 174 12 Mercedes-Benz Financial
57 178 -- Woodforest National Bank
58 179 -- TradeKing
59 182 -- M&I Bank
60 189 -- Wells Fargo, CEO
61 190 -- First Tennessee Bank
62 195 16 Bank of Oklahoma
63 196 -- SFEFCU
64 201 -- IBC Bank
65 205   VyStar Credit Union


Note: For more info on mobile banking, see our previous Online Banking Reports.

Categories: Apps, Mobile Banking

Southern Bancorp Launches "Shake and Bank" iPhone App Aimed at Youth

By Jim Bruene on April 25, 2011 4:44 PM | Comments

image It's been more than six months since we last featured a new mobile app from a financial institution (see Arvest Bank's financial calculators). It's not because of lack of activity, or importance. In that time, more than 1,000 financial institution apps have been introduced and the market has really heated up.

But we focus on what's new and different. And for the most part, the class of 2010 and 2011 have been "me-too" entries. Which is exactly as it should be. Every mid-sized and larger bank and credit union needs at least one app in the iTunes store, so the last 18 months have been about gaining competitive parity. 

But things will start to get more interesting again as financial institutions:

Southern Bancorp's new mobile app, Shake and Bank, ticks all four boxes. It's an iPhone/iPod Touch app designed to give kids (or any account holder) a quick look at the balance in their account. As you can see below, Shake and Bank is pretty much self-explanatory:

1. Open app (note 1)

2. Shake iPhone

3. See balance

The app requires a setup code to launch. According to the iTunes entry, the code can be obtained through the bank's website or at a branch. But as of today, I see no mention of Shake and Bank, or mobile banking for that matter, at their website.

Bottom line: I'm a sucker for pigs, so obviously I like it. But more importantly, Southern Bancorp makes it easy to monitor account balances with a simple kid-friendly approach. And parents will appreciate the help reinforcing the savings habit (note 1).

Southern Bancorp has $1.1 billion in assets and 40 branches in Arkansas and Mississippi.

Southern Bancorp's iPhone app targeted towards kids (link, 25 April 2011)

Southern Bancorp&#39;s iPhone mobile banking app targeted towards kids      image 


1. Since I couldn't test the app without an account, I assume there is no subsequent login requirement once you've entered the setup code. And more importantly, I hope that it oinks when shaken. 
2. For more info on mobile banking, see our previous Online Banking Reports.


30 Most Popular iPad Apps from U.S. Banks and Other Financial Services Companies

By Jim Bruene on April 20, 2011 7:05 PM | Comments

image Apple tweaked its propriety algorithm that ranks apps in terms of popularity (Cnet article). Evidently the changes had an impact on overall rankings, but little or no effect on intra-category ranks.

That holds true with my casual observations within the finance category. Regardless, it seemed like a good time to visit the App Store and document which financial iPad apps are currently most popular (see Table below).

Note: The first column below is the rank among all financial institutions (as defined below). The second column in the app's rank within the entire App Store "finance" category.


  • The highest rated bank is Chase at number 9 in the finance category
  • There are only two banks (Chase & USAA) in the top 20
  • There are only seven consumer banks in the top 200 (Chase, USAA, Bank of Oklahoma, Trustmark, BB&T, BBVA, Bank of Texas)
  • There are more credit unions (8) than banks (7) in top 200 in the finance category
  • Still missing some huge banking names (Amex, BofA, Capital One, Citi, Discover, Mint, PayPal, US Bank)

My methodology: Using an iPad and iPhone, I accessed the finance category of the App Store and sorted by "Most Popular." I am including only apps from any U.S. financial institution or from third parties that tap directly into financial institution data using account aggregation (e.g., from Yodlee, CashEdge, etc.). Pure content apps, like Schwab's On Investing magazine, were not included even if from a financial institution.

FI Rank Finance Rank Company App Name
(+ company)
1 1 Pageonce Money & Bills (free)
2 2 Square  
3 3 Maximo Cavazzani (works with
TD Ameritrade)
4 9 Chase Bank Mobile
5 10 Pageonce Pro - Money & Bills
6 11 E*Trade Mobile Pro
7 15 TD Ameritrade Mobile
8 20 USAA  
9 21 Fidelity Investments  
10 22 Thinkorswim (TD Ameritrade)  
11 29 Expensify Expense Reports
12 49 Mercedes-Benz Financial My MBFS
13 50 Wescom Central Credit Union Mobile
14 59 TDECU Mobile
15 67 BofAML (BofA Merrill Lynch) MyMerrill
16 68 Bank of Oklahoma Mobile
17 74 MACU (Mountain America) Mobile Banking
18 88 Trustmark National Bank  
19 96 thinkMoney (TD Ameritrade)  
20 97 BofAML (BofA Merrill Lynch) Merrill Edge
21 98 JP Morgan Mobile
22 107 BB&T Banking
23 114 thinkorswim (TD Ameritrade) VEO Mobile
24 131 BBVA Compass Mobile Banking
25 169 NASA FCU Mobile Banking
26 170 DATCU Credit Union Mobile Banking
27 182 SCU (Scott Credit Union) Mobile Banking
28 188 Bank of Texas Mobile Banking
29 193 GWCU (Goldenwest Credit Union) Mobile Banking
30 194 American Eagle FCU Mobile Banking


Note: For more info on mobile banking, see our previous Online Banking Reports.

Categories: Apple, Apps, Mobile Banking

Can Banks and Credit Card Issuers Outflank Groupon with Merchant-Funded Rewards?

By Jim Bruene on March 24, 2011 5:58 PM | Comments (2)

imageGroupon may be the biggest company in history that everyone thinks they could have built. Facebook, I guess, is up there too.

It seems everyone is wondering how they could do the "Groupon of ____" (fill in the blank). In my world, the blank is "banking." I already wrote about the potential for selling financial products through Groupon and other flash marketing sites last July, so I won't repeat that part. Anyway, that's Groupon 1.0. 

It's Groupon 2.0 that I think is even more interesting for financial institutions. The new model, coming in a few weeks, is all about mobile deals. Groupon Now mobileThe company is said to be planning on adding two buttons to your smartphone:

I'm hungry...which will alert you to nearby Groupons you can use for food deals.

I'm bored...which will alert you to just about anything else Groupon sells.

It's brilliant. And so simple. Again, everyone will wish they'd built it. 


Banking Opportunities

So how could you do the same thing in personal finance? What would those buttons be?

  • I'm broke....leads to ATM finder, cash-back location, credit card site, loan app, friends & family loans, P2P lender, etc.
  • I've just been paid...leads to ATM finder, branch locations, deposit accounts, billpay, investments, automated savings plans, etc.
  • I'm out of town...leads to ATM finder, FX locations, travel services, 
    resource locator, card-issuer notifications, security preferences, etc.

But those are all pretty much standard functions of online/mobile banking today. The bigger opportunity may be to beat Groupon at the local level, with merchant-funded rewards tied to debit/credit cards (see note 1). Banks could potentially use the same "hungry/bored buttons" and direct customers to cash-back deals at restaurants and other merchants making offers to your cardholders.

Bottom line: Location-based rewards is another example of why mobile banking will be more important than online banking. To put it simply:

Banks enable commerce.

Mobile enables location-based commerce.

So financial institutions are right in the middle of a multi-billion dollar shift in retail spending. Enjoy all the opportunities!


1. For more on merchant-funded rewards, see the latest Online Banking Report.
2. Picture credit: All Things Digital

Comments (2)

U.S. Bank Launches Both PC and Mobile Remote Deposit

By Jim Bruene on March 15, 2011 7:11 PM | Comments

I was surprised to see the news release that U.S. Bank had upgraded its Firethorn-powered mobile banking app to include mobile remote deposit. I've been following the development of the bank's PC-scanner-based remote deposit option which also launched yesterday, and I'd never seen the mobile option mentioned (previous post). 

True to form, when I logged in to my account online and clicked on the "Make a Deposit (New)" link, there was still no mention of the mobile option. However, I was greeted with the news that I was now eligible to use the bank's new PC scanner-based program at a cost of $0.50 per deposit.

I went through the simple online enrollment process (see below), but didn't test an actual deposit because I don't have a scanner attached to my laptop.

Bottom line: Congratulations to US Bank for being the second major bank to support both mobile and PC-based consumer remote deposit, trailing just USAA which launched PC-remote deposit in Dec. 2006 and the mobile version in Aug. 2009. Chase also offers mobile consumer remote deposit (launched in July 2010)  but does not offer a consumer PC-based service.


How it works

1. Select "Make a Deposit" link on left

US Bank online deposit landing page (15 March 2011)

2. Enrollment
Users must enter their email address, agree to the terms, and answer the following three usage questions:

Enrollment questioinaire US Bank

3. Select "Get Started" on main deposit page

Main deposit page US Bank

4. Choose account to deposit to

Step 1: Choose account to deposit to at US Bank 

5. Enter check details


6. Error message requesting Java be downloaded



Chase Bank Uses QR Code in Homepage Banner

By Jim Bruene on January 20, 2011 5:16 PM | Comments

Here's the first time I've seen a QR code used on a bank's homepage. After an animation sequence (below) announcing Chase Bank's new Android mobile banking app, the final graphic displays a code that Android smartphone users can scan to download the new app. Very clever.  

Chase Bank homepage (20 Jan. 2011)

Chase homepage announing android mobile banking app

Landing page (link)

Chase landing page for its new android mobile banking app

Animation graphic 1:


Animation graphic 2:


Animation graphic 3:



Another Promising Mobile App that Does Away with Paper: Intuit's SnapTax

By Jim Bruene on January 10, 2011 5:33 PM | Comments (2)

imageI meandered into Intuit's lab site today and ran across a nifty app released last year called TurboTax SnapTax. It allowed California residents to file simple tax returns by photographing their W-2 form, answering a few questions, then e-filing directly from the iPhone app (inset).

As you can see in the following video, the whole process could be completed in a few minutes. The app launched last year on Jan. 15, just in time for the 2010 tax season. The cost was $9.99 which included Federal and state e-filing. 

There's no word yet on whether the company will be releasing a 2011 version (update: it launches Jan. 13, 2011 and is good in all 50 states). There is no entry in the iTunes store for SnapTax as of today. However, Intuit does have two tax tools available: TaxCaster to estimate your refund and MyTaxRefund to track it. 

Analysis: The Intuit app is part of a trend we expect to continue, using smartphone cameras to capture, store, and eliminate the need to store paper receipts and statements. And like Mitek's Mobile Photo Bill Pay, Intuit's Snaptax is much more than a dumb scanner. It takes the scan, reads the info, and assists in completing the transaction.

Opportunity for NetBankers: It's probably too late for 2011 tax season, but if you can be the first one in your market to offer mobile-photo tax-prep next year, it should provide a healthy PR boost come April 2012. You might also consider offering a tax estimator and/or refund tracker to your mobile offering. 

Intuit's SnapTax allowed California taxpayers to file directly from their iPhones in 2010.
Comments (2)

Wells Fargo Remodels its Mobile Website,

By Jim Bruene on January 5, 2011 6:44 PM | Comments

image I just realized that I haven't posted anything about non-app-based mobile websites (aka WAP) since the pre-iPhone days of early 2007, when I tried unsuccessfully to log in to ING Direct's mobile site through my trusty Samsung Blackjack.  

Mobile banking has come a long way since then, primarily through native apps, now supported by more than 1,000 financial institutions in the U.S. alone. But a mobile-optimized website is still an important part of your overall mobile mix. Not everyone has a smartphone and not every smartphone user will download your app.

And some observers believe that the mobile Web, enhanced with HTML 5 and whatever comes next, will eventually run all the apps out of business. With 300,000 apps for the iPhone already created, I think that's unlikely, but possible.

But whatever the future holds, today you need a good mobile-optimized website. And Wells Fargo, for one, hasn't forgotten about it. Today they sent an email to customers announcing a remodeled mobile site at, its mobile URL (see screenshot below).

After logging in at the site, users are greeted with a menu button that opens up a new window of choices (note arrow in screenshot). It's a nice way to navigate and makes the mobile website feel more like an app. The email also says there is more info on the page to minimize clicking, an important change. I still prefer the native app (note 1), but this is a nice improvement.

Wells Fargo email to customers announcing its redesigned mobile banking site, (5 Jan. 2011; landing page)
Note: The "Menu" button, when pressed, opens or closes the navigation choices (shown in open mode below)

Wells Fargo email to customers announcing its redesigned mobile banking site, (5 Jan 2011)


1. Ironically, the native app doesn't seem to be working on my iPhone 4 at the moment (update 6 Jan., it's working now). Another reason you want to have a good mobile website alternative.


The 12 Days of Mobile Banking

By Jim Bruene on December 21, 2010 5:14 PM | Comments (1)

image In the holiday spirit, I thought I'd lay out the perfect mobile banking/payments app for 2011 (note 1). These are the features I hope to be using on my smartphone at this time next year: 


  • Option to log in with 4-digit PIN only
  • Authorize unusual and/or declined card transactions and unusual checks presented for payment

Bank account management

  • Banking data presented in order of importance with new transactions in bold (like Gmail Priority Inbox, previous post)
  • Quick view of current balance with predicted balance going forward based on known upcoming transactions

Paper management

  • Deposit paper checks via camera (remote deposit)
  • Pay bills by taking a picture of the billing statement (photo bill pay)
  • Scan-and-store paper receipts and statements


  • Use NFC or bar-codes at the point of sale to make payments directly via phone, without the plastic
  • Pay bills or individuals via their mobile phone number

Alerts & calculators

  • Receive important alerts via push messages to the phone's main screen
  • Take action or adjust alert sensitivity by responding to messages via text messaging or within the app
  • Key financial calculators, such as loan/mortgage payments

And a partridge in a pear tree.

Enjoy the real thing here:


1. I'm missing important features, but I had to stop at 12 to fit the holiday theme. Thanks for bearing with me.  
2. For more info on mobile banking, see our previous Online Banking Reports.
3. Photo credit: Apple holiday promotion in United Kingdom <>

Comments (1)

2010 Saw 40-Fold Growth in the Number of Financial Institution iPhone Apps

By Jim Bruene on December 14, 2010 6:21 PM | Comments (1)

image As hard as it is to believe, last year at this time only 30 financial institutions had apps in the U.S. iTunes App Store (note 1). And that was a full 18 months after Apple's phone had opened its OS to third-party programs. A few in the industry still questioned whether smaller banks and credit unions would ever need a native iPhone app.

I think that question has been answered: In the past 12 months, the total financial institution app-count has rocketed upwards to more than 1,200, a 40-fold increase. That's 100 new apps per month for the past 12 months.

In raw numbers, the past seven days have been relatively unremarkable with just 17 new FI apps. But it's been one of the biggest weeks in terms of major launches:

  • BofA Merrill Lynch research library for iPad only (note 4; iTunes)
  • Capital One, whose app was released on Sunday, went to #5 Monday and is up to #4 when I checked a few minutes ago (see inset; note 2; iTunes)
  • NetSpend (iTunes)
  • Schwab, both v1 of its iPhone app (iTunes) and an iPad version of its On Investing magazine (iTunes)
  • SmartyPig (pending Apple approval)
  • Stanford Federal Credit Union, which used a striking background for its app home page (see below; iTunes)

imageAnd while it's not nearly as crucial as the iPhone, we are waiting for a slew of iPad apps. Apparently, BBVA Compass demo'ed a cool unreleased iPad app at a mobile conference (note 4). And just today, Schwab released its monthly magazine in iPad format, an industry first.


1. See Online Banking Report #176, Table 18 (link subscription required)
2. Rank is of free apps in the Finance category in the U.S. store. The apps above it are #1 Bank of America, #2 Chase, #3 PayPal
3. HT David Eads in Mobile Manifesto
4. At the same conference as note 3, Bank of America revealed it hit the 6-million mark in active mobile banking users.

Comments (1)

Cardlytics Partners with ClairMail to Take Merchant-Funded Rewards Mobile

By Jim Bruene on December 7, 2010 5:02 PM | Comments

image One of the best innovations to come out of this recession is in-statement, merchant-funded rewards. First-mover Cardlytics launched at last year's BAI Retail Delivery (see post).

A year later, it was already reaching 30 million consumers  imagethrough relationships with more than 100 card-issuing banks and 100 merchants (see notes 1, 2). That's unheard of growth in financial services. If just one-third of the 30 million customers look at their statements each month, Cardlytics would have more unique visitors than Groupon (note 3), which has been called the "fastest growing company ever." 

We're not saying Cardlytics has anywhere near the $60-70 million in monthly revenues attributed to Groupon, nor the $6 billion valuation. But enough similarities can be seen in their business models that I'd be very, very happy if I were an early Cardlytics investor (note 3). For example:

  • Both earn revenue directly from merchants who pay only when sales are made
  • Both leverage online channels to deliver significant discounts to targeted users
  • Both are first movers with aggressive growth tactics

And Cardlytics is different too:

  • Cardlytics focus (for now) is national merchants, whereas Groupon is closely associated with local merchants (but is adding national merchants)image
  • Cardlytics can target much more precisely and keep offers out of the hands of the merchant's existing customers, a huge and unique benefit
  • Cardlytics does not need to market its own site to consumers; it rides on the coattails, and leverages the trust, of its banking partners

Mobile opportunity
Cardlytics operates at the intersection of payments and advertising. And while the online card statement is the place to be in 2010 (see screenshot below), clearly the future for any shopping-related service is mobile.

Although no specific products or partners were revealed, the startup signaled its intention to go mobile with its ClairMail partnership announced today (press release).

Cardlytics example: in-statement McDonald's offer made to Burger King customers

cardlytics in-statement merchant-funded offer for McDonalds


1. Cardlytics will be demoing the latest innovations in its service at our Finovate Europe conference on Feb. 1, 2011.
2. BillShrink won a Best of Show award at Finovate Fall for its take on the concept (video).
3. On the strength of its early growth, Cardlytics landed a huge $18 million C-round in August.
4. According to Compete, Groupon had more than 8 million unique U.S. visitors in October.


Why Mitek's New Photo Bill Pay Could be a Way Bigger Deal than Mobile Deposit

By Jim Bruene on October 25, 2010 6:10 PM | Comments (4)

imageFor the second time in three years, Mitek completely wowed me on the floor at BAI Retail Delivery. In 2008, I was amazed to see them deposit a check with their mobile phone; this year, the trick was similar, but with a bill.

Mitek CEO James DeBello demonstrated the new systam to me at their booth (press release). He grabbed a bill from a pile, took its picture via the Mitek iPhone app, and sent it off via 3G connection to servers which read the characters through OCR and queued it up for payment. The billing and payment-due info was presented in an easy-to-read table for the user to verify before hitting the "pay" button (see screenshots below). I coveted it for my checking account ... now. 

While the deposit of a paper check has a little more of a "wow" factor (as in wow, I don't have to go to the branch anymore), the mobile scan-and-pay of a bill is actually far more useful. The potential market for mobile deposit-capture is limited by the shrinking number of personal checks in use, especially by iPhone-wielding early adopters. I'd guess the total U.S. market for mobile deposit is no more than 10 to 15 million households and shrinking.

And even though paper bills will eventually be eliminated by Doxo or someone, they are still a fact of life for just about everyone with a checking account. And even if consumers start accepting ebills from their major payees, most will still have a few paper bills every month for at least another decade or two.

So not only is the market for photo bill-pay about 10x that of mobile deposit, but the service also solves a peskier problem for most end-users: getting bills paid on time, something that has far more financial consequences than processing the occasional paper check gathering dust in the drawer. 

And for financial institutions, photo bill pay provides several important benefits:

  • Helps get customers started with online bill pay by eliminating the data-entry task of setting up new billers
  • Helps convert customers from other bill pay providers by eliminating much of the conversion hassle of re-establishing payees at a new bill pay service
  • Provides a tangible, value-added mobile service to differentiate from the competition
  • Provides a fee-revenue opportunity from either monthly subscriber fees and/or expedited payment fees

The downsides:

  • Cost
  • Tech support/customer service
  • Potentially harder to wean customers off the paper bill, if it's so convenient to just point-and-shoot to get it paid

Bottom line: Without knowing costs, what type of back-office integration hurdles the app faces, or even personally testing the user experience, I can't say for sure how popular it becomes. If the scanning is finicky, it could be a non-starter. But, if it works like it did in the demo, Mitek may have figured out how to finally eliminate the data entry from the electronic bill payment process, a HUGE win.

1. Main screen                               2. Scan with mobile camera

image     Mitek photo billpay camera view

3. Verify data (3 screens)

 Mitek photo bill pay verify data    Mitek photo bill pay verify data    Mitek photo bill pay verify data

Note: For more info on mobile banking, see our mobile banking series in Online Banking Report.

Comments (4)

Is Barcode Scanning the Next Must-Have Feature for Mobile Banking/Payments?

By Jim Bruene on October 13, 2010 4:18 PM | Comments

imageBarcode scanning via mobile phone has been around for a a while. But until added it to its mobile app this week, I hadn't experienced it firsthand. Target's iPhone app also supports barcode scanning, powered by RedLaser.

And it's impressive. Unlike mobile remote check deposit, where the trial-and-error method of getting a good picture can be tedious, barcode scanning provides real-time feedback so you know exactly when the camera is positioned for a successful scan (see screenshots of the process below).

Yes, it took a minute or so to get my first scan to work, but the built-in feedback mechanism makes it feel more like a game that I eventually won, not a frustrating task. But don't take my word, it's something you should try yourself via the Amazon Mobile or RedLaser app (see inset).

Relevance: Robust payment capabilities are the reason we believe mobile banking eventually eclipses online banking in importance. Whether it's location-based fraud monitoring, mobile wallets, or contactless payments, mobile phones have so many advantages that users will naturally gravitate to them to manage their spending/banking.

Barcode scanning, or the even cooler picture-recognition (also supported by Amazon, see screenshot #5), are important shopping value-adds that many mobile users will use. However, it seems to be more of a feature than a standalone app. And where's the most logical place to locate that feature? Integrated directly into bank debit and/or credit card apps. Mobile App barcode scanning screenshots (13 Oct. 2010)

1. Barcode-scan option within search                 2. Position UPC within orange bars

image           image

3. Orange bars turn green when                   4. Actual results from my scan of
the barcode is properly aligned                     a DVD lying around our house

image           image

5. Even faster, at least for media titles, is the photo-recognition feature offered by Amazon. Within seconds after snapping the photograph, Amazon had it identified and stored for future reference.


Note: For more info on mobile banking, see our mobile banking series in Online Banking Report.


Arvest Bank Adds Suite of Calculators and Other Non-Transactional Services to iPhone App

By Jim Bruene on September 25, 2010 8:37 AM | Comments (2)

image Like American Express, Arvest Bank is one of the dozen or so U.S. financial institutions with multiple apps in the Apple iTunes App Store (note 1). The bank has one app for account access and another which can be used only to find its branches and ATMs (app link).

Arvest iphone app v2.0

However, the non-transactional app, which debuted last November, is undergoing a major facelift, with version 2.0 due in the store shortly. The bank offered a sneak peek on its blog this week (see inset).

The update contains four new functions:

  • Calculators: The app now includes access to a suite of 40 financial calculators (e.g., loan payment calculator) saving customers the time and hassle of searching for similar tools within the App Store.
  • Customer Connect will use the user's GPS location to provide location-sensitive customer service contacts, a great way for a financial institution to demonstrate their commitment to local service. 
  • Current Rates are easily accessible from a single button on the main page.
  • Arvest News houses its blog feed.

Bottom line: While these functions have been common on websites for a decade, as far as I know, this is the first app from a bank or credit union that includes all these features. Nice work.

1. In a search at, there are currently 583 iPhone apps in the finance category with "bank" in their name or description. Another 483 contain "credit union" for a total of 1,066 banking apps. Not all of these are from financial institutions, but an estimated 70% to 80% FI apps.

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With the Launch of Foursquare-powered Social Currency, American Express Now Has 7 iPhone Apps

By Jim Bruene on September 23, 2010 6:31 PM | Comments (1)

In the spring, we predicted that 10 to 15 years from now there would be tens of thousands of iPhone apps from financial institutions alone (note 1). Our reasoning: Many (most?) larger FIs would have more than one app, perhaps dozens. At that time, nine financial institutions (note 2) were tied for most-prolific app deployers, each with two iPhone apps.

imageToday, I found out that American Express has blown that record away. With the release this week of a youth-oriented Foursqure-powered app, Social Currency (app link), the card issuer now has seven apps available for the iPhone alone (but still none for the iPad).

AmEx iPhone lineup
Two are from American Express Publishing (making the comparison to other financial institutions a little unfair):

  • Best New Chefs
  • Eat and Drink

Two are published by other companies:

And finally, three more from core card-issuers:

  • American Express used to access most AmEx cards
  • OPEN Forum for small business clients
  • mobileXtend that can only be used by employees of corporate clients who have licensed this service option 

American Express has seven apps available for the iPhone
Note: Shown here in search via iPad (22 Sep 2010)

American Express has seven apps available for the iPhone

1. See Online Banking Report: The Case for Mobile Banking (published March 2010)
2. See Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking and Finance Apps (published April 2010)

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Mobile Phones Just Keep Getting Smarter: Now Used as an Electronic Key Card at Holiday Inns

By Jim Bruene on September 22, 2010 8:33 PM | Comments (1)

imageI love September. When I was a kid it was the excitement of going back to school, a new football season, wonderful Midwest weather, plus my birthday to boot.

Nowadays the birthday isn't so much fun, but the weather is still fine and it's like Christmas for new tech products. I can't prove it, but I bet there are more major product announcements in Sep/Oct/Nov than the rest of the year combined. 

This month already, 70 new tech products launched at DEMO last week, and several dozen will debut at TechCrunch Disrupt next week. Then, of course, we have 56 new financial launches at Finovate, Oct 4/5 (which unfortunately is sold out).

Today alone, there were at least six new things I would have liked to blog about. Maybe I can get some of them into my Twitter feed at least. I have chosen the one that was the biggest "aha" moment of the day. The seemingly off topic, but oh-so-cool service, that can turn any mobile phone, yes even those low-end freebies, into an electronic hotel room key. And without any additional hardware/case/SIM/SD card or anything. It's like magic. Watch.

They use sound to engage the lock. Aha! Would I trust the thing? Probably not, but I'd use it anyway. The key benefit (pun intended) is that you get to bypass the endless lobby check-in queue when you arrive at the hotel and simply proceed directly to your room. For that, I'd take the risk that it didn't work. Besides, four times in my life I've been given a key card at the front desk that opened up on a room already occupied (see note 1), so this system can't be any worse.

The system, called MobileKey, is being piloted for the next three months at a Holiday Inn in Chicago and Houston. It's powered by OpenWays. When using the service, the hotel sends the guest a text message with a link that plays a unique sound that opens the door. Brilliant! 

Relevance: When your phone becomes your Starbucks card, then your airline boarding pass, and now your hotel room key, it's only a matter of time before it becomes a mobile wallet, not only controlling your bank accounts, but also used at the point of sale for purchases. 

1. Does this happen to everyone or am I just cursed? At least three times the door was not deadbolted from inside, so I actually went partway in to the room. Once I was politely told to go away, once I was screamed at by a fellow whom I'd awakened after midnight, once the occupant was in the shower so I quickly backed out, and the fourth time there were dishes out front so I called the front desk first. Anyway, I always knock before going into my room the first time.  
2. HT ReadWriteWeb

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The 49% Text Banking Gap

By Jim Bruene on September 7, 2010 2:23 PM | Comments (2)

image Quick. What comes to mind when you envision mobile banking? I'm guessing most of you pictured a mobile website or shiny new app running on a recent iPhone, Blackberry, Android or other smartphone.

And if mobile banking was used only by techies, that would be about right. But banking is used by just about everyone, and everyone still doesn't have a smartphone and Internet data plan.

According to the latest study out of Pew Internet (note 1), 82% of U.S. adults have a cell phone (and another 6% of the total live in a household where someone else owns one). And 72% of those cell phone owners use text messaging while only 38% access the Internet through their phone.

And only 60% of the mobile-Internet users, or 23% of all cell phone users, are frequent users, accessing the Internet 3 or more times per week (note 2). 

So the text-banking gap is 49% (72 less 23) or half of all cell phone users. Those are the people that use text messaging but do not regularly access the Internet through their phones. Another way to think of it, the non-Internet-using segment is more than twice the size of the mobile-Internet-using group. Or more simply, text users outnumber (frequent) mobile Internet users 3 to 1. 

Bottom line: Don't overlook the mainstream text-message group for both alerts and balance inquiries. And make sure your marketing and educational material speaks to the sizable segment that could care less about your new iPhone app and just wants to know how to txt for their bal. 

1. Adult data compiled via telephone interviews in May 2010. N = 2,252. Teen data is from a year ago in a telephone survey of 800 teens (age 12-17) fielded June through Sept. 2009.
image2. In comparison, text-message usage is crazy high (see eMarketer graph of the Pew Internet data inset). According to the Pew data, adult (18+) text-message users send/receive almost 40 text messages a day. Of course, that's nothing compared to the thumb-weary, under-18 crowd who send/receive an average of 110 messages per day. Side note: The wording on the question asks for the number of messages sent AND received, so one exchange, text out and reply back, should only count as one message. But I'm guessing respondents are thinking of this more as "sent OR received" so that each exchange counts as two messages. I also suspect the kids are over-estimating their usage quite a bit, wanting to wow the researchers with their uber-connectedness. But the bottom line is the same: Teens have embraced texting, and adults have caught the bug as well.   
3. For more info on mobile banking, see our mobile banking series in Online Banking Report.

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Chase Adds Mobile Remote Deposit Capture and P2P Payments to its iPhone App

By Jim Bruene on July 3, 2010 10:53 AM | Comments (2)

imageChase Bank rolled out a major new release to its iPhone app on Thursday (v. 2.3.1) with the addition of both remote deposit capture and peer-to-peer (P2P) payments (see inset). Chase is the first to support both those important features in its mobile app (note 1). This post covers remote deposit, and I'll look at the P2P feature later.

How it works
I had been looking forward to depositing a check via the magic of the iPhone. But sadly, despite following the directions and capturing a good image of the front and back of the check, the software failed to scan the amount correctly (see screenshot 7).

The Chase app said the check scanned in at $0, despite it being a printed $200 check. I was testing with my trusty version 1 iPhone (circa 2007), which may not have a sharp enough camera. I'll try it on a newer iPhone and update the post. 

Here's the process for new users (click on the thumbnails to view larger versions):

1. The Chase Quick Deposit service has been added to the main navigation bar across the bottom.

2. Customers agree to terms and conditions. Note: The service is limited to $1,000 per day and no more than $3,000 per month, eliminating many businesses as potential users.

3. On the first screen, users enter the dollar amount of the check.

4. The app provides instructions on how to successfully capture the check image.

5. Take pictures of the front and back of the check.

6. Double check image quality.

7. Error message saying that the dollar amount from the scan ($0) did not match the amount entered ($200).

Summary: Despite the glitch on my first deposit attempt, I'm glad to see Chase moving the mobile state-of-the-art forward. I'm sure we'll see remote deposit added to most major mobile banking apps in the near future.

1. Signup screen           2. Customer agreement  3. Enter amount

image    image    image

4. Hints on image capture   5. Photograph the check front and back

image    image

6. View photo results                             7. Error message

image       image

1. USAA was the first major bank with mobile remote deposit, launching it in Sep. 2009; while WV United FCU was the very first with it almost exactly one year ago.
2. For more on mobile banking and payments, see the most recent issue from Online Banking Report.

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Citibank Adds Text Banking to its Mobile Lineup

By Jim Bruene on June 22, 2010 5:44 PM | Comments

image With today's launch from Citibank (press release), the big four U.S. banks now all support text banking (Bank of America, Chase, Citibank, and Wells Fargo) (see note 1).

With these four giants on board, text banking turns into table stakes going forward, i.e., a must-have feature. Those without it have a tangible deficiency that will cost them customers, especially in the heavy-texting youth market.

The Citibank service is read-only offering Bal, Stmt, and Hist commands sent to its shortcode MyCiti (692484) (see second screenshot for command list). It also includes the all-important Stop function to turn off all text messages and alerts. Chase Bank recently became the first major U.S. bank to offer text-based funds transfers.

Citibank isn't making a big deal of the new option on its website. The text option is now positioned on the mobile page with equal billing with the bank's iPhone and (other) smartphone options (see first screenshot below).

Citibank mobile landing page (link, 22 June 2010)

Citibank mobile landing page

Text banking page (link)

Citibank text banking page

1. Update June 23: While BofA and Citi added text banking this year, Wells and Chase have offered it since 2007.
2. For more on mobile banking and payments, see the most recent issue from Online Banking Report.


Bank of America Promotes Text Message Banking at Login

By Jim Bruene on June 11, 2010 4:43 PM | Comments (2)

image Logging in to my Bank of America credit card account today, I received a full-page promotion for the bank's new text-messaging service.

Even though my mobile phone was already enrolled, the bank served the following interstitial encouraging me to to enroll:

Bank of America interstitial 11 June 2010 
Bank of America's interstitial promotion after logging in to online banking (11 June 2010)

I chose the "enroll now" link in the lower left above and was taken to this page:

Mobile enrollment landing page (secure site)

Evidently, I'd already enrolled, which I should have remembered considering I'd blogged about it two months ago.

However, if you arrive at this page, as I did, expecting to enroll in text banking, it's a bit confusing. It would be helpful to see a bolder statement that "you are already enrolled." It would also be nice if they provided the short code (692632) to quickly test your phone to verify enrollment. To find that info, you must click the small "Text Banking Guide" link.

Relevance for NetBankers: If you are unable to screen out existing users, make sure you communicate clearly so customers don't waste their time re-enrolling. 

1. I don't know if BofA's text messaging is down, or if it's something related to my account, but I am getting no response to my text-message queries (bal, menu) to the bank's short code (3:41 PM, 4:12 PM, and 4:32 PM Pacific time, June 11). 
2. For more information, see our Online Banking Report: Selling Behind the Password (published April 2009).

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Best of Web: Chase Launches Instant Action 2-Way Text Alerts

By Jim Bruene on June 3, 2010 9:30 AM | Comments (2)

imageobr_bestofweb It's been 13 years since email bank-account alerts first appeared in the United States (see note 1). And for 12.99 years, users have wished they could just reply back to the message to cover a checking account shortfall. 

Well finally, Chase Bank has delivered on that promise with real-time Chase Instant Action Alerts:

image    image

Chase account holders now receive real-time text-message alerts when their account drops below preset minimums. Customers can initiate funds transfers by texting back transfer instructions. Currently, transfers can be initiated only via text message.

While we would have been more impressed if the service covered the more common email alerts, the new feature does move the online/mobile banking state-of-the-art up a notch. That's enough to earn Chase the second OBR Best of the Web awarded in 2010 and the 77th all-time (notes 2, 3).

The bank is promoting the new feature via Google AdWords (see screenshots below). And, they've done a good job identifying the key benefit in the landing page title:

Avoid Overdrafts | Chase Instant Action Alerts

I don't see any mention of the new capabilities on the Chase homepage today, nor does it appear to be touted within online banking (note 4). However, a site-search for "alerts" drives users to the landing page shown below.

Advertising on Google search for "Chase email alerts"
(2 June 2010, 9 AM from Seattle IP)


Landing page (link)
Note: The top graphic is animated, showing how the alert and reply work (see images at the top of this post)


image 1. Signet Bank was the first major to offer email account alerts. We covered it in OBR 22 (Feb 1997). We didn't learn until a few months later that community bank Britton & Koontz actually beat Signet to market with alerts launched in the summer of 1996.
2. You could argue that Chase is not first with this capability. The handful of U.S. text-banking programs that support transfers are already offering the same capabilities as Chase (for example, see text commands at Natco Credit Union).  However, Chase is the first major bank to provide the functionality, as well as the first to really promote the reply-back function as a major benefit.
3. OBR Best of the Web awards are given periodically to companies that pioneer new online/mobile banking features, products, or enhancements. It is not an endorsement of the company or product, just recognition for what we believe is an important development that "raises the bar" in alt-delivery. Chase's Instant Action Alerts are the 77th recipient since we began the awards in 1997. It's the second for Chase. The bank also won in 2007 for being the first major U.S. bank to roll out text banking. For a list of the top innovations of all time, see our January 2010 Online Banking Report.
4. It was not mentioned within my business banking account or consumer credit card account. I don't have a Chase consumer checking account.
5. For more information on alerts and messaging, refer to this Online Banking Report published in 2003.

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Launches: Piggymojo Taps Twitter and SMS to Track Everyday Savings Success

By Jim Bruene on June 1, 2010 10:25 AM | Comments (1)

image Who hasn't played this game? "If I give up x, I can justify buying y." At our house, after two decades the game is mostly now limited to big-ticket items. For example, "If we don't replace our 11-year old Toyota, we can take a summer trip to the U.S. Open."

The basic premise is that the extra three grand you DON'T spend on the new car essentially pays for the vacation, making it seemingly "free" and more guilt-free. It's a common and powerful principal of consumer behavior.     

Piggymojo's just-launched service taps into this psychology and gives it a mobile twist. The startup uses text/Tweet-based data input so it's easy to track all the expenses you've avoided during the day. And because it takes just a few seconds to tap out a message, the principal can be used to track even trivial daily savings that can add up over time.

For example, if you decide to start brown bagging lunch instead of hitting your normal lunch spots, you can track the savings by Tweeting/texting to your Piggy Mojo account:

Packed own lunch, saved $5 (or on Twitter, "d piggymojo 5 lunch not out")

Drank free office coffee, saved $2.75

Read office newspaper, saved $1

The service collects all these messages and tracks the total amount "saved." The totals can be applied to various savings goals to measure progress. The site uses a unique photo mosaic to visually represent goal progress. You can choose from dozens of exisiting photos or upload your own. As you build your savings, the photo gradually fills in until it's complete (see screenshot below).

You can add your spouse/partner to the account so both of you can contribute towards the savings. There's also a way to set up "recurring savings" so you don't have to constantly text repetitive items. For example, if you cancelled your cable TV, you can input the amount saved once at the Piggymojo site and it will automatically credit your account each month (see second screenshot).

There's also a social piece, allowing you to bring friends and family into the fold. Piggy Mojo will automatically send them a weekly progress report on your goal, providing that all-important peer pressure to your spending discipline.

Relevance for netbankers
Currently, the site is not hooked to an actual bank/CU savings account. The user is responsible for actually moving these fictitious savings amounts to a real savings account for later use. But this concept would be much more powerful if every time you texted "saved $6 at lunch" that six bucks were actually transferred from checking to savings.

Piggy mojo goal-tracking via completing picture of your goal (1 June 2010)
Note: The arrows point to the color sections that have been completed, visually demonstrating that I'm about 7% of the way to the goal


Recurring savings input form


1. HT: Credit Karma blog
2. For more info, see our Online Banking Report, where we wrote about various ways to leverage your online/mobile channel to boost deposits in late 2008 (here).

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Complexity in Financial Services: Can We Really Bank Simple?

By Jim Bruene on May 28, 2010 2:34 PM | Comments (2)

Financial confusion Despite the best intentions of governments worldwide, does anyone really believe that consumer financial services will become simpler anytime soon?

Yet, I've been intrigued by Bank Simple and apparently, so have many others. Evidently, Twitter/Square founder Jack Dorsey and TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington talked about Bank Simple on stage at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference this week.

While most articles are hopeful, first-mover skeptics have already posted counterpoints to the startup's "motherhood and apple pie" messaging (make sure you read the comments on Ron Shevlin's post).  

I can't remember any financial entity, other than those with celebrity founders (Square, Revolution Money, Virgin Money) receiving this much attention before it even launched (note 1).

imageI still don't know exactly what Bank Simple will offer. Certainly, they have a great name and a positioning that's right for the times. But can they live up to it? Basic banking really is pretty simple. You deposit some cash, earn some interest, then take it out and give it someone else. Rinse. Repeat.

Innovation often creates complexity
Banking got complicated only when new features were introduced. People got tired of going to the bank, pulling cash out of the vault, and hauling it around to pay people. So checks were invented. Payment became much easier, and personal security greatly enhanced. And as a nice by-product, the returned check was the first PFM tool, serving as a handy authenticated record of who was paid for what, when.

That worked great for a couple generations, but then too many people wrote too many bad checks and it started to become a slow and cumbersome process to identify yourself at the point of sale. So debit cards came along to speed the purchasing process, fight fraud, and return some fee income to the issuing banks (note 2). And the electronic records of merchant name and SIC code made record keeping even easier, originally on paper statements and now online.

Those two innovations, checks and debit cards, really helped consumers save time and hassle. But did they make finances simpler? Not really. Those payment services led to NSF/overdraft fees, PIN vs. signature decisions, card authorizations, check-hold times, float, authorization holds, chargebacks, annual fees, check-printing fees, positive pay, reverse positive pay, remote deposit capture, mobile remote deposit capture, Quicken, My Spending Report, Mint, interchange regulation. The list goes on and on.

It may not be simple, but no one (except visitors to this UAE hotel) is going back to carrying gold nuggets to the general store to buy crackers out of a barrel.

Technology MIGHT be the answer
Technology advances often bring wonderful, sometimes life-altering, benefits (think electricity or water purification), but often at a cost of increased complexity. As much as I love, love, love the Internet, it's not known for its overall ease of use. 

But there's a glimmer of hope on the horizon, and you are carrying it in your purse, pocket, or briefcase.

The smartphone.

I'm still amazed at my iPhone after more than 2.5 years of continual use (note 3). It's the one and only device I've owned that makes life better AND simpler, albeit at a hefty monthly fee.

And I believe mobile apps will ultimately make banking better AND simpler. Why?

  • The phone knows who you are and where you are, vastly simplifying authentication at the point of sale and reducing fraud significantly.
  • The phone (via real-time links to the bank and retailer) knows exactly how much money you have and what you are buying, virtually eliminating overdrafts and unknowingly overspending.
  • The phone can provide an instant, secure way to pay any person or any business, with immediate settlement.
  • The phone has built-in scanning capabilities for depositing checks, capturing receipts, documenting insurance claims, etc.
  • The phone has access to every database on the planet to assist in shopping, evaluating, financing, insuring and closing any deal for any thing.
  • And if you have a question about any of the above, just speak into the device and you'll get an answer in moments via voice recognition self-service.

So yes, there is hope for banking/financial simplification, and I think it will almost exclusively come through mobile apps with the occasional visit to an online mission control (note 4). So if you want to compete with Bank Simple, or Bank of America for that matter, get cracking on your mobile strategy (note 5).  

1. Now that Twitter's Alex Payne has been added as a co-founder, Bank Simple could probably be classified as a celebrity-founded company.
2. I'm still using my first-gen phone bought in Oct. 2007. The battery is still very strong, the touch-screen virtually unmarked, system performance seems unchanged, and it only crashes a couple times every year despite being carried, set down, and tucked away day in and day out.
3. This is a vast oversimplification of the move to debit cards, but the point is they disrupted checks at the point of sale.
4. If you are still unconvinced that mobile will overtake online for banking tasks, here's a thought:  Consider how often you go online now to check the local weather. A waste of time -- right? -- when all you have to do is press a button on your smartphone. The same near-instant response will happen for basic banking info.
5. In our Online Banking Report, we've published several reports on mobile banking strategies.

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Chase is First U.S. Bank with a Native iPad App

By Jim Bruene on May 5, 2010 8:04 PM | Comments (1)

Last week, Spain's BancSabadell and "la Caixa" became the first banks in the world with iPad apps. But the U.S. was still shut out until today, when Chase became the first U.S. bank with a native iPad app (iTunes link). It doesn't yet show in the Finance category of my iPad. But if I search for Chase, it appears as a download option.

imageIt successfully downloaded, and about 60 seconds later, I was looking at my Chase account. Unlike some banks, it was not necessary to activate the app in online banking. First-time users log in to the app with their online banking credentials. Then an 8-digit code is sent to a pre-existing phone number or email address. Users then enter this code into the iPad.

Chase's app is basically a stretched-out version of its iPhone app. But the extra real estate does make it easier to accomplish tasks, such as sending a bill payment (right screenshot). But the biggest initial benefit of the iPad app is all the blog posts and news articles it will generate. 

Chase is betting big on the iPad platform, taking a reported six-figure sponsorship of the NY Times iPad app (see inset, click to enlarge). The bank really had no choice but to support that advertising expense with a banking app of its own. Chase launched its iPhone app in Dec. 2008.

Chase Bank's native iPad app (5 May 2010)

image    image

Note: For more on mobile banking and payments, see the most recent issue from Online Banking Report.

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The iPad: One Million Shipped in First Month, but Still No U.S. Bank or Credit Union Online Banking Apps

By Jim Bruene on May 3, 2010 5:13 PM | Comments (4)

image Apple today said it has shipped one million iPads (one of which went to a lucky Mint user, see inset). I don't think that's a surprise to anyone who's even mildly interested in tech.

It's debatable whether the iPad is a laptop killer, but if nothing else, it's a really capable portable media and game player. Given its appearances on The Grammys, Modern Family, Lettermen, and so on, and with Apple's cachet, how could the iPad not sell a million?

But the iPhone arrived with even more hype, and it took more than two months to sell a million back in the summer of 2007. But it was much more expensive considering the price of the phone and $800+ per year to AT&T. And there was no App Store back then: it was just email, SMS, Safari, YouTube, stock tracking and of course, my personal favorite, the weather button.

So I'm not surprised the iPad has consumer appeal. But I am surprised that no major U.S. financial brand, other than E*Trade (see screenshots below) has a native iPad app yet in the U.S. store (notes 1, 2). I expected at least a half-dozen by now. But there have been very few new apps in the iPad store across all categories. Only nine new apps have launched since April 3 in the finance category, bringing the total to 39 (see note 3; original post here ).

So, it may not entirely be the fault of the FIs. There is probably a logjam of apps waiting for approval from Apple. We look forward to seeing what the FIs and PFMs bring to the iPad throughout 2010.

E*Trade Apps: iPhone vs. iPad
Note: Relative size is accurate; see CNET's comparison of iPhone vs. iPad versions across 20 popular apps (previous post on why you need an iPad app here)

image      image

1. Square also had its app available at launch, although they have yet to launch credit card processing, so it's not really functional yet. Card processing is expected to launch later this week when the iPhone app becomes available.
2. (Updated May 4 with "la Caixa" info and search info) They don't show on my U.S. iPad, but Spain's "la Caixa" added an iPad app to the U.S. store a few days ago (link) and Banco Sabadell has one in the U.S. store (link). Also, I just learned (May 4) that if you search specifically for the Spanish banks on my U.S. iPad, they do show up and have been successfully downloaded.
3. There are many mysteries of the App Store. One new one is the discrepancy between what's shown on my iPad vs. what's in the iTunes store. On my iPad, 30 finance apps showed on April 3, and there are now 39, for a growth of 9. iTunes shows 61 available today, up 18 from the 43 available on April 3. None of the extra 22 in iTunes are from financial institutions.
4. For more on mobile banking and payments, see the most recent issue from Online Banking Report.

Comments (4)

New American Express iPhone App Does Away with Pesky Online Enrollment

By Jim Bruene on April 29, 2010 7:06 PM | Comments (5)

image As I've pointed out, the key to boosting mobile banking adoption is to make the user experience better than the desktop computer/browser version. But many banks shoot themselves in the foot immediately by requiring existing online banking users to first log in to online banking to enroll in mobile banking (see note 1).

I've never quite understood the logic. Why can't online banking customers use their existing credentials to log in via the mobile app? What's the new risk? If anything, you are more likely to get your credentials stolen via desktop login than mobile login (at least for now).

imageSo far, the mobile banking apps I've used have required initial activation via online banking (see note 2). I'm sure their security folk can sleep better knowing that I've proven ownership of the phone before logging in from it. But you don't have to prove you own the PC before using it, so what's the difference?

But finally, one of my financial providers, American Express, launched an iPhone app (note 3; iTunes link) that I can use right away by logging in with my online banking credentials (see screenshot below). I expect this will soon become the industry standard.

American Express iPhone app screenshots (version 1.1)

image     image

American Express mobile landing page (link, 29 April 2010)


1. Even more important is enabling online enrollment of customers NOT using online banking; but that's a trickier, albeit potentially lucrative, project.
2. I am using mobile iPhone banking at Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and US Bank. While BofA, Wells and Chase (Update April 30, Chase has online enrollment for text messaging only; you can sign on to its iPhone app with your online banking credentials) all have a relatively painless 60-second signup process, US Bank's is truly cumbersome. It's a ten-screen experience that not only takes several minutes, but also requires the creation of not one, but two new PINs. A 4-digit one for transferring funds via mobile and a six-digit one for use in subsequent mobile app logins. While I'm all for simplified logins, six-digit PINs are not standard and many users will have a tough time remembering it. Many users may resort to using their mobile number, which kind of defeats the purpose. Use four digits and block access after four attempts.
3. The American Express app was released March 31 and a new update was released today.
4. For more on mobile banking see our recent Online Banking Reports.

Comments (5)

Jack Henry Unleashes 23 Mobile Banking Apps Into the iPhone App Store in April

By Jim Bruene on April 26, 2010 10:07 PM | Comments

imageWe've been closely tracking mobile apps. In the 21 months since Apple opened its App Store, 77 U.S. financial institution added apps, about four per month (see our latest report for more info).

Then last week, 18 new bank apps appeared. And they all shared a certain, shall we say utilitarian, look (see below). Turns out they are pushed out by Jack Henry for its NetTeller clients. While they won't win any design awards, it's good to be in the app store.

In total, Jack Henry now has 24 clients represented in the store. All but one, Ohio Valley Bank, were added in April (see table below).

We can now officially report there are more than 100 U.S. financial institution in the iTunes App Store. Just 10,000+ more to go.

Bank Service Name Date
Ohio Valley Bank - 2 Feb 2010
Bank of Brookhaven goDough 2 April 2010
Valley View Bank Mobile Banking 2 April 2010
Ohio Valley Financial Group goMobile 5 April 2010
Alpine Bank Mobile Banking 16 April 2010
American National Bank of Texas Mobile Banking 16 April 2010
First Dakota National Bank eMobile Banking 16 April 2010
First Fidelity Bank Mobile Banking 16 April 2010
First National Bank of the Rockies FNBR Mobile 16 April 2010
First State Community Bank FSCB Mobile Banking 16 April 2010
Bank of Granite Granite Mobile Banking 16 April 2010
Institution for Savings goMobile Banking 16 April 2010
Lone Star National Bank LSNB Mobile 16 April 2010
Mascoma Savings Bank Mobile Banking 16 April 2010
Susquehanna Bank Mobile Banking 17 April 2010
Simmons First Bank Anywhere 17 April 2010
Northway Bank Mobile Banking 17 April 2010
State Bank of Lizton Mobile Banking 17 April 2010
Stonegate Bank Mobile Connect 17 April 2010
Texas Bank and Trust TBT gomobile 17 April 2010
The Bank of Elk River eMobile Banking 17 April 2010
Western National Bank Mobile Banking 17 April 2010
The Bank of Miami TBOM Mobile 17 April 2010
Pendleton Community Bank yourbank2go 17 April 2010
Westerly Community Credit Union WCCUmobile 21 April 2010

Source: (data drawn from iTunes), 22 April 2010

The two screenshots posted for Western National Bank's iPhone app, powered by Jack Henry (26 April 2010)

image     image


Bank of America Launches Text Banking

By Jim Bruene on April 12, 2010 7:03 PM | Comments (3)

image Your best excuse to delay your text-banking project ended today. Bank of America launched the mobile service via an interstitial ad to online banking customers (see below).

imageThe new service may be rolling out in waves since it's neither mentioned in online news sites, nor featured on the BofA site. And there is only a single Twitter message posted three days ago. 

The signup process required the entry of a mobile number and a YES response from that mobile device (see screenshots below). While that's not much to ask, it did seem unnecessary since I was already signed up for mobile banking through that number. 

After responding yes from my mobile, I received a welcome text from the bank (see iPhone screenshot right).

That seemed like a nice touch until I clicked on the link and was taken to the regular webpage, rendered impossibly small on my first-generation iPhone, where I first had to select my state. That took me to another page full of barely readable mouse-type regarding text options (see last screenshot).

Action item: If you don't support text banking yet, it's time to move it up the priority list. 

Bank of America online banking login splash screen (12 April 2010, 6 PM Pacific)


Landing page when selecting "Enroll now" above


Enrollment page (within online banking)


Page displayed while waiting for activation via mobile phone


Page displayed after activating via mobile and clicking "Check Activation Status" button (above)


Mobile help screen as viewed in first-generation iPhone


Note: For more on the importance of mobile banking and payments, see the most recent issue from Online Banking Report.

Comments (3)

Why You Should Build an iPad Banking App (Even Though You Don't Need To)

By Jim Bruene on April 11, 2010 9:51 AM | Comments (4)

One week into the iPad era there are still no banks or credit unions with iPad-specific apps (note 1). There also aren't any major PFM or other financial brands present, other than Square and E*Trade. Mint's not even there yet.

What's going on? On Friday, The Financial Brand's Jeffry Pilcher tweeted the question that's on a lot of bankers' minds:


While I suspect Jeffry is mostly being provocative, it's a question worth discussing. Should financial institutions build an iPad app?

The Web experience on the iPad is outstanding. It has a lightening-fast Safari browser built in. It loads my bank's webpage as fast or faster than my MacbookPro or Thinkpad X41. The iPad virtual keyboard makes it easy to type username and password. And for the most part (Flash is a problem), websites look and perform perfectly on the iPad (use if you want to see what your webpage looks like in an iPad layout).

So yes, online banking works fine on iPads. But you can say the same thing about most evolutionary products. Telephone calls work fine on corded phones. Cars work fine without cup holders. Refrigerators work fine without ice makers. And so on.

An iPad app isn't about utility, it's about a great user experience. The ability to click on a banking button on the main iPad screen and launch a perfectly sized online banking app shaves 30 to 45 seconds off the traditional browser-based approach (open Safari, navigate to my bank, and find the login button). There are also things you can do with an app, such as location-aware ATM/branch finder, that make it a better experience (note 2). 

So here's why most major financial brands should have an iPad app now:

  • Free publicity (part 1): As of today, there are only 39 iPad apps in the Finance category. Each of the 562,000+ iPad owners, and millions of others browsing the iTunes App Store, would see your brand showcased there.
  • Free publicity (part 2): There was, and is, a tremendous amount of hype around the iPad. Being the first bank/CU in your country/state/region/city/neighborhood with an iPad app will net you numerous mentions online and in print.
  • It's cool: While financial institutions are rightly focused on the basics right now, there is still considerable value in being seen as a technology leader.
  • It's inexpensive: Building a basic iPad/iPhone app is a relatively simple project. If it did nothing more than connect to online banking and show nearby ATMs/branches, you'd receive most of the benefits listed above.
  • It's the future: Apps and widgets will play a large role in banking info delivery going forward, especially in mobile banking. You should be designing apps for every significant platform. In the U.S. that means the iPhone and Android, then iPad and Blackberry after that (see note 3).

And one final note for the 67 U.S. financial institutions that already have iPhone apps. Yes, you still need an iPad one. While the iPhone app runs fine, it is displayed in a small window the size of an iPhone. Users can press a button in the lower-right corner to doublesize the app, but images and text become fuzzy, and it just doesn't look right (although it is functional as you can see in the screenshots below).

Bank of America's iPhone app displayed on iPad screen (5 April 2010)
Note: Click on the images below to see the quality difference

              Normal size                                                             Double sized

 image      image

1. As of 11 PM Pacific April 10, the only major financial brand with an iPad app is E*Trade MobilePro, which is more about stock trading, not banking.
2. For more on financial apps and the iPhone, see our March 2009 Online Banking Report.
3. For more on the importance of mobile banking and payments, see the most recent issue from Online Banking Report.
4. Hat-tip to Banking Kismet for blogging on the subject.

Comments (4)
Categories: Apple, Mobile Banking, iPad, iPhone

Banks Shutout on iPad Opening Day, But Square is There

By Jim Bruene on April 4, 2010 9:16 PM | Comments

image After months of hearing about the iPad, I finally got my hands on one Saturday afternoon. It's a great piece of technology, but if you have an iPhone, you pretty much already know what it's like.

While the iPad runs all 150,000 apps available for the iPhone, developers are encouraged to produce iPad-optimized versions to take advantage of the significantly bigger-screen real estate.

When you open the App Store on the iPad, it focuses almost entirely on iPad apps. You have to do a specific keyword search to find non-iPad apps that work on the iPhone.

And I was surprised that neither banks nor credit unions are represented among the 30 Finance category apps available on April 3 (see screenshots below), a situation likely to be rectified with a flood of banking and credit union iPad apps during the next few months. It's definitely a place you want your brand represented (note 1).

imageThe only big financial services brand that made it to bat on opening day was E*Trade MobilePro (which hit the store last Thursday), and another trading app, iStockManager, to be used with TD Ameritrade.  Bloomberg, too, had its popular info app available on day 1 (see screenshots below for all 30 finance apps).                                       

The biggest surprise in the iPad Finance category was Square, the much-touted card-to-card payments service from Twitter's founder, which released its iPad app on April 1 (see inset). We'll be testing Square this month and hopefully using it to take last-minute credit card payments at our upcoming FinovateSpring Conference.                                                                                  Square's iPad app

The 30 iPad finance category apps available on the launch day (3 April 2010)
(Note: Organized by "featured")
Page 1: Apps 1-12                                                     Page 2: Apps 13-24image   image

Page 3: Apps 25-30


Note: For more coverage of mobile banking and payments, see the most recent issue from Online Banking Report.


First Finance Apps for Apple iPad Unveiled

By Jim Bruene on April 1, 2010 6:22 PM | Comments

image Apple loaded iPad apps into the main iTunes store today (see screenshot below). Search is limited and apps by category are not yet available, but you now can browse the iTunes store for iPad-optimized apps.

I looked at all 2,400 and spotted three financial titles -- a credit card merchant terminal, a stock-info tracker (see below), and E*Trade's Mobile Pro -- plus a few calculators

I was disappointed that no banks or credit unions were represented. But the iPad launch is still 36 hours away, so I may still win my bet that Bank of America will be there on the morning of April 3.  

Apple iTunes App Store now features iPad apps (1 April, 5 PM Pacific)


E*Trade Mobile Pro for iPad (iTunes link)


Credit Card Terminal for iPad from Inner Fence
(for users; iTunes link)


MarketScan by Michael Foster (iTunes link)


Note: For more coverage of mobile banking and payments, see the most recent issue from Online Banking Report.

Categories: Apple, Apps, Mobile Banking, iPad

Mobile Firsts: PayPal Launches Bump to Pay

By Jim Bruene on March 18, 2010 6:12 PM | Comments

imageThis month we've explored several new features that promise to propel mobile banking into the mainstream market. Unlike developing nations, where mobile is the ONLY way to conveniently bank, in the U.S. and other online-centric countries, mobile has to compete with online for awareness and usage.

There doesn't seem to be a single killer app for mobile. But a growing list of things that mobile does better than online will eventually tip the scales in favor of the new channel. Here's what we've seen so far:

  • Location-based ATM/branch finders (here)
  • Remote check depositing (here)
  • Simple login with 4-digit pin (here)
  • Insurance discounts after graduating from iPhone-based program (here)

The latest addition to the list:

  • PayPal's Bump to Pay (see video below): Users of PayPal's latest iPhone app can transfer funds to each other merely by entering the amount and moving their phones within close proximity of each other (see screenshots below).

As David Eads points out at Mobile Manifesto, bumping to pay has some drawbacks in the real world:  

.....most of the time I want to send money to someone, I'm not standing beside them. And if I am, most of the time I would feel awkward actually touching the person. Imaging bumping someone for admission to a high school football game. Imagine bumping a street vendor for a newspaper or flowers. Imagine bumping a scalper for tickets outside the game.

My take: I agree with David that physically placing iPhones next to each other seems awkward today. But then again, so was writing paper checks back in the day when everything was paid for in cash/coins.

If so-called bump pay is super-convenient, fairly priced, and the perceived security issues are overcome, there's no reason why it couldn't become the predominant method of person-to-person payments. While it's way too early to make any kind of prediction, I'm just saying, don't dismiss it yet.

David's closing remark is spot on:

The key for P2P is getting people comfortable with the idea of transacting electronically between individuals. Bumping and Zooming makes it more fun.

Bumping is now an integral part of PayPal's iPhone app

image   image   image


Off-topic addendum: As much as we like new bells and whistles, bump pay pales in comparison to the really big news at PayPal this week: the announcement that it's teaming with China UnionPay and Singapore's DBS Bank to offer payment services. The 2-year DBS deal will put PayPal in the hands of the bank's four million customers, 1.3 million of whom are currently banking online.

How big are these deals? A good indicator is PayPal's plan to double its staff in the region to 2,000 employees. Wow, has any financial company anywhere in the world added 1,000 to its staff in the past two years?


Note: For more coverage of mobile banking and payments, see the most recent issue from Online Banking Report.


New Online Banking Report Available: The Case for Mobile Banking

By Jim Bruene on March 15, 2010 6:49 PM | Comments

image The latest Online Banking Report: The Case for Mobile Banking is now available. It will mail next week to OBR subscribers. It's also available online here. There's no charge for current subscribers; others may download it immediately for US$395.

There is little doubt that mobile is the next online, not just in banking, but with many information-rich, time-sensitive services. Even in the online-centric United States, we expect mobile banking to eclipse online by the end of the decade. 

Another way to look at it: Starting from essentially zero just three years ago, more than half of the U.S. online banking population will be using mobile banking, by 2015. That's zero-to-40 million households in just eight years.

Most financial institutions should be making their mobile bets during 2010/2011. The report outlines ten ways that mobile banking supports overall strategic goals at financial institutions. It also includes our ten-year forecast for U.S. mobile adoption (note 1).

This report is number four in a series we've published on the mobile area during the past three years:

Num Date Title
177 Mar. 2010 The Case for Mobile Banking: Ten strategic reasons for investing in the channel
163/164 Mar. 2009 Mobile Banking 2.0 the iPhone Edition: How to build a smartphone app even your CFO will love
140/141 Apr. 2007 Mobile Money & Payments: Why credit & debit card issuers should embrace mobile delivery now
138/139 Feb. 2007 Mobile Banking: Leveraging the third screen

1. The mobile forecast was originally published last month in our year-end recap.


Mobile Firsts: State Farm Offers Auto Insurance Discounts to Graduates of its Steer Clear iPhone App

By Jim Bruene on March 10, 2010 7:03 PM | Comments (2)

imageLast week I talked about how USAA is making the mobile experience better than online thanks to the magic of mobile remote deposit and PIN-based login. For the sake of discussion, I'm defining magic as anything you could not have imagined doing on your mobile phone two years ago (note 1).

The latest novel financial app: State Farm's Steer Clear program that provides auto insurance discounts "up to 15%" for new drivers (under age 25) that pass its safe driving program. Users can undergo the self-assessment program online or off, but the app makes it easier and with a built-in stopwatch (screenshot below) to track the required 20 practice drives. See how it works in the company's video below (press release here; iTunes link here). 

image As much as I like it, the State Farm app doesn't quite make it into the magical category. Had it used GPS to automatically track the 20 practice drives, it might have passed the bar. I'm sure that's in a future version.

Regardless, it's clever, unique and positions the company well with the youth market and their parents that often foot the insurance bills. That's a good return on the small investment needed to port the program over to a mobile app (note 2).

1. I am using two years, since that predates the opening of the iPhone App Store in July 2008.
2. Read more about the strategic advantages mobile banking can give your financial institution in our latest Online Banking Report published today.

Comments (2)

Finovate Alumni News from FiLife, Firethorn, Mint, Jwaala, and Fast Company

By Andrew Dolbeck on March 5, 2010 1:37 PM | Comments

Stories from our Finovate blog are covering the most innovative financial technology companies in the world, and more alumni news is available on our Finovate Twitter feed.

Half of Fast Company's 10 Most Innovative Financial Companies are Finovate Alums

Fast-Company-Logo3 Fast Company's list of the 10 most innovative financial companies includes five Finovate alums - FiLife, Intuit, Yodlee,, and Simplifi. FiLife was not only #1 in finance, but also the only financial company to be ranked in the overall Top 50.

Finovate alumni commanded the top three positions, with Intuit and Yodlee following FiLife. was #7 and Simplifi was #9 (full post here).

FiLife and Mint Top Finovate Alumni Traffic Chart

clip_image004FiLife also has the highest website traffic among Finovate alums with more than 2.7 million visitors. Mint was second with 1.7 million. FiLife and Mint were also the fastest-growing alumni sites, gaining 2.6 million and 612,000 visitors respectively over the previous year.


And the zero-60 awards go to ThreatMetrix and Home-Account who both went from zero to nearly 200,000 unique visitors, a phenomenal amount of traffic for a financial company in their first year (full post here).

Firethorn App Provides Mobile Access to More Than 3,700 Financial Institutions

Firethorn has updated its mobile banking app to allow consumers to access accounts at more than 3,700 U.S. financial institutions. Expanding beyond its current list of integrated banking partners brings the company's app to a wider range of consumers.

Since its mobile app interfaces with existing online banking systems, Firethorn can provide consumers with mobile banking even when their bank doesn't support it. The app also gives users the ability to access account information from multiple institutions from within a single interface (full post here).

Jawalla Adds Skype and Twitter Alerts to its Online Banking Platform

clip_image007Jwaala has added Twitter and (in what we believe to be a first) Skype alerting capabilities to its MoneyTracker BOB (Better Online Banking) platform. The addition gives Jwaala's clients the ability to offer consumer alerts through channels already familiar to their customers.

Alert systems are important to financial institutions because they provide personalized information to customers where and when they most need it. Expanding its alert capabilities helps Jwaala differentiate itself from competing platforms (full post here).


USAA Makes Mobile Banking Better than Online Banking

By Jim Bruene on March 3, 2010 6:06 PM | Comments (4)

image Here's a test that tells you when you've built a successful mobile app:

  1. Place your laptop next to your iPhone/Android
  2. Choose a task
  3. Reach for the device that's easiest to use for that task 

If you don't reach for the mobile phone first, you still have work to do on the user experience. 

I've always chosen the laptop for banking, even though I've ported more than a dozen other routine tasks to the iPhone (note 1). The hassle of logging in with those tiny iPhone keys pushes me to the laptop. But as of Tuesday, USAA's latest iPhone app, version 2.2, has changed the equation, and there's no looking back. 

Mobile vs. online banking
The key to making mobile a profitable channel is to make the user experience BETTER than online. And USAA is the only U.S. financial institution doing that today.

USAA's biggest mobile "wow" is mobile check deposits (see Deposit@Mobile screenshot below) introduced six months ago for the iPhone. While it may not seem novel to those in the industry familiar with scanner-based remote deposits, the average consumer considers an iPhone check deposit to be almost magical. Other than a few small credit unions, no other major banking competitor offers it, so USAA continues to own mobile magic.  

imageBut with Bank of America rumored to be readying a launch mobile deposits, which will no doubt be featured in Apple TV ads, (see latest one here), USAA needs to keep innovating. 

And this week, USAA delivered with a single-PIN login with authentication powered by VeriSign VIP service. The optional 4-digit sign-on process is available now on the iPhone and will be available in April for Android and "shortly thereafter" for Blackberry (note 2).

In a time when it's more tedious and less secure to log in online, USAA takes us back in time to a simpler day, when you could log in with just a few digits.

And by using techniques that authenticate the mobile phone during login, the bank says that mobile access is more secure than online.

Think about that for a moment. Mobile is MORE SECURE than online. With tens of millions of customers deathly afraid of logging in via their virus-laden PCs, imagine what that could do for mobile adoption.

It will take time to educate the market. Currently, most consumers believe the mobile channel is far less secure. But if they can be convinced the opposite is true, many will kiss online banking goodbye forever.

1. According to yesterday's release, USAA has 1.3 million mobile users, 17% of its 7.4 million customer base.
2. Previously, USAA users were required to sign on with username, password and PIN. The simple sign-on process is optional for those not trusting the simpler process.
3. For more info on financial services opportunities on the iPhone, see our March 2009 Online Banking Report.

Comments (4)

What Does the New Apple iPad Mean for Banking?

By Jim Bruene on January 27, 2010 3:08 PM | Comments (4)

image_thumb11Apple today introduced its latest invention, a gigantic $499 iPod Touch called the iPad (inset shows iPad, Kindle, vs. iPhone; note 1).

It's a gorgeous piece of technology that will soon be the movie-watching, ebook-reading device of choice for the rich and famous. But what does it mean for the average financial institution?

Tactically, it should have almost zero impact. Your iPhone/iTouch app should work pretty much the same on the iPad. There may be some design tweaks your programmers will need to understand, but the basic functionality is the same.

It would make a wonderful giveaway item, either as part of a high-end business/private banking package (note 2), or as a sweepstakes prize.     

So those of you who already have an iPhone app launched, or in the pipeline, can stop reading now. But read on if you haven't yet hopped on the app bandwagon.



The movement to apps, and away from old-school "browsing," is unstoppable. The iPad joins a growing list of new devices (Android, Kindle, etc.) that are app-primary, browser-secondary (note 3).

It's a massive shift that's happened in less than two years, beginning in July 2008 when Apple opened the iPhone platform.

The popularity of apps is changing how users tap online info. Even power laptop/desktop users are making dramatic changes in their information consumption. For example, within a few months of the Apple app store launch, I had already moved 12 of my routine info-gathering tasks to the iPhone. The speed/convenience of pressing a single button vs. navigating to a website via the browser is a significant improvement in user experience. More than a year later, my habits have changed little. 

The change from serving customers who were "online browsers" and are now "mobile app users" has profound implications for banking. Instead of talking to your customers in batch- mode with built-in time delays, you are now real-time, feeding data to customer on the go, where they need up-to-the-minute status on their cash situation.   

In many ways, the ROI for real-time banking (and here) is more dramatic than online-batch banking. The ability to stamp out POS fraud, to nip budding customer service nightmares, and just plain get closer to the customer, all bring nice returns on the mobile investment (note 3).

1. Photo credit: TechCrunch post today.
2. For more info on using a dedicated device for small business customers, see our October Online Banking Report.
3. Groundswell author and Forrester analyst Josh Bernoff calls this the "splinternet."
4. For more info on financial services opportunities on the iPhone, see our March Online Banking Report.
5. Initial response online was mixed, 2,700 readers of CrunchGear, voted "thumbs sideways" today (link, results at 4PM Pacific below)


Comments (4)

Nationwide Insurance is Fourth Financial Institution with Multiple iPhone Apps

By Jim Bruene on January 11, 2010 6:57 PM | Comments (2)

image In November, we predicted that large financial institutions would each offer dozens of mobile apps targeted to various lines of business and/or customer segments (previous post). PNC Bank, Wells Fargo and Chase each have two apps in the iPhone store.

Three weeks ago, a fourth financial company added its second app: Nationwide Insurance.

The company originally launched an app (inset) geared towards its insurance customers in April 2009 (press release; iTunes store link). This app is designed to assist its insurance customers when they have an accident. The most recent version includes a toolkit, auto claim form, agent finder and even a flashlight.

Then in mid-December, the company released a second app geared towards automobile shoppers, Cartopia (screenshots below; iTunes link; press release). It helps buyers research prospective cars on the go.

By inputting a vehicle identification number (VIN), consumers can quickly access the following info on a prospective vehicle:

  • Car specs (fuel economy, dimensions, weight, etc.)
  • Average retail and wholesale prices
  • 5-year cost-of-ownership estimates
  • Original warranty info
  • Safety info
  • History of the VIN number, powered by Experian's AutoCheck (similar to Carfax report; limited to six free lookups each month; note 1)

In addition, users can calculate monthly loan payments with a built-in loan calculator. Nationwide also provides links for customers to call in to apply for vehicle financing and or receive an insurance quote. Unfortunately, there is no online loan application or insurance price quote engine.

Finally, the app contains space to keep notes and rate the cars you are considering purchasing.

Relevance to Netbankers: If you are in the auto loan and/or insurance business, getting your name in front of car buyers as they shop is the ultimate marketing coup. While you may not be able to emulate all the functions in Nationwide's app (note 2), even a simple loan calculator and note-taking area, along with links to your call center, could drive incremental business.

                                                                                    Cartopia #2 Main Loan info with link to
     Cartopia #1: Splash screen                          insurance quote (via voice call)

image            image

1. I was unable to access the report on my test vehicle; the error message said it was temporarily unavailable.
2. Although the app is loaded with features, its UI is a bit clunky and the app is only rated two stars in Apple's App Store. Consequently, a slimmed down, simpler app, would appeal to many users.  
3. For more info on financial services opportunities on the iPhone, see our March Online Banking Report.

Comments (2)

Sneak Peek at Mercantile Bank's Powered-by-PayPal Mobile P2P Payments

By Jim Bruene on December 11, 2009 5:25 PM | Comments (1)


Mercantile Bank of Michigan is riding the wave of free publicity from being first to market (probably) with iPhone-based P2P payments powered by PayPal. That's a triple play in both imagealliteration and PR value. See the teaser ad on the bank's website below (first screenshot).

The new service, a joint effort from PayPal and S1, is expected to go live in early 2010. It will allow customers to send money directly from their iPhone to any other individual on the worldwide PayPal network. All the sender must know is the recipient's mobile phone number or email address. According to the five-question FAQ on the landing page (see second screenshot), the service will be available to all MercMobile customers and will be free of charge.

Mercantile Bank has become one of the most innovative banks we follow. Congratulations to CIO John Schulte and his team for leading the industry on several fronts and providing great material for Netbanker (previous posts here; note 1).


For more on the P2P payments market, see our latest Online Banking Report, published earlier this week, Making the Case for Person-to-Person Payments

Mercantile Bank's powered-by-PayPal mobile P2P app (7 Dec. 2009):

image   image   image

Mercantile Bank of Michigan homepage (8 Dec. 2009):
Note: MercMobile P2P Payment teaser in lower left and home-based remote-deposit capture on the top banner.


P2P payments landing page (link)


1. Mercantile even earns its very own category at Netbanker: <>. 

Comments (1)

Citibank Ends its Three-Year Test with Obopay

By Jim Bruene on December 6, 2009 7:21 PM | Comments (1)

imageIt appears that the Obopay/Citibank co-branded service is being shut down. From the sparse note on the webpage <> (see screenshot below), it doesn't sound like a temporary hiatus: 

As of Dec. 22, 2009, "Citi Obopay" will no longer be available.
If you would like to use the Obopay service go to
The service available at has no affiliation with Citibank.

The companies have been working together on Obopay-powered mobile payment for more than three years.

Citi Mobile SVP Marylou Dowd said on Thursday in American Banker that the Obopay tests were concluded this summer. Not coincidently, Citi's mobile joint venture MMV announced last week that it was partnering with CPNI Inc. of Toronto to build a mobile P2P payments service.

Obopay's website still shows Citi Obopay on its Financial Institutions page (see inset above). But Citigroup, which invested at least twice in Obopay in the July 2007 C-round and April 2008 D-round, is not listed on Obopay's investors page.

The site was never publicized by Citibank. Traffic peaked at 7,000 unique visitors in Feb. before falling so low that Compete could not measure it after April 2009:


Source: Compete, 3 Dec 2009, link

For future reference, we've archived the website screenshots below.

Citi Obopay homepage (3 Dec 2009, 4 PM Pacific)
Note: The <> URL now redirects to the Obopay homepage.


How Citi Obopay Works page <>


Get Citi Obopay page <>


Citi Obopay Fees page <>


Note: For more info on mobile banking, see our Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via iPhone (March 2009) as well as our earlier reports on Mobile Banking (Feb. 2007) and Mobile Payments (April 2007).

Comments (1)

Chase Bank's Second iPhone App: Gift Planner

By Jim Bruene on November 24, 2009 7:02 PM | Comments (2)

imageA few days ago, we predicted there would be tens of thousands of financial institution iPhone apps as the big banks released dozens to support their major business lines. PNC Bank and Wells Fargo were the two examples we cited.

There's another multi-app bank: Chase. In our search for an iPhone gift planner to replace the web-based Zions Bank service, we ran discovered the bank's Gift Planner (iTunes link).

Version 1.0 was released in time for the holidays last year (3 Dec. 2008), but it looks like Chase didn't take over ownership/sponsorship until release 2.0 in August. The app is supported by an excellent small website at that displays the app and solicits feedback.

image The app and website are 100% Chase branded. The only indication that a third party is involved is a notation in the iTunes store that the app is sold by The Archer Group (inset), a Wilmington, DE-based digital agency.

Evidently, the app didn't show up on our radar because it's placed in the App Store Productivity category instead of Financial. The app doesn't appear to be mentioned on the Chase main website. A site search there came up blank.

Review: It's great looking app that can be used for any holiday. The app supports "shake for help," an advanced feature. The integration with your contact list makes it easy to add new contacts without typing, although you must wade through your entire list. And, the imageprocess of adding gifts is a bit tedious. You have to add a gift to the master gift list, then go to each person and add the gift to their profile. It would be better if you could simply type a gift on the fly.

iPhone users have been relatively unimpressed, giving the latest version a 2-star rating out of five; pretty low for a professional app (see inset).

It's a good branding tool for Chase, but it the app itself could use retooling.

Gift Planner iPhone screenshots (24 Nov 2009)

image   image   image

Gift Planner website (link)


Note: For more info on mobile banking on the iPhone see our March Online Banking Report.

Comments (2)

How Many iPhone Banking Apps Will There Be?

By Jim Bruene on November 12, 2009 6:02 PM | Comments

image Are you tired of hearing "there's an app for that" yet? Well, get used to it, we are still at the beginning of the great app rollout

Even as recently as our iPhone Banking Report published in March, I assumed most financial institutions would have a single iPhone app. One bank. One app. It's how the Web worked, for the most part.  

But when Starbucks unveiled a dedicated app just for its stored-value card (separate from the main Starbucks brand app), I realized that I wasn't thinking big enough.

For example, in August PNC Bank become the first U.S. financial institution to offer multiple apps when it released an app for its Gen-Y-focused Virtual Wallet. That was followed last week by Wells Fargo when it unveiled its cash-management app for larger businesses, CEO Mobile (screenshot below; press release).


image Now, I believe that each major bank will roll out dozens of apps, perhaps hundreds, to support their business lines, major products and large segments. There will be an app for each major affinity credit/debit card, one for students, one for small businesses, one for large business, one for senior checking, one for home equity lines, and so on.

And, if that's not enough, there could be a dedicated app for each stock broker, loan officer and mortgage broker. There could be one app for every branch, neighborhood, or region. Right now the search-and-discovery tools at Apple would implode under the weight of all these apps. But they'll figure that out. It's worth billions to them. 

Today, more than 100,000 apps are available for the iPhone. But fewer than 20 are for U.S. financial institutions. It's conceivable that in the banking vertical itself, well over 10,000 apps could be developed, possibly many tens of thousands (see notes 1, 2). 

Wells Fargo is first U.S. bank with a cash management iPhone app (12 Nov 2009)

image          image

1. They won't all be iPhone apps. The mobile market is too big to have it all consolidated at one player. 
2. It's also conceivable that we'll move away from the dedicated app framework, and users will be able to configure their phones with hundreds of info feeds without needing to install an app for each one. More like the iGoogle portal model.  It will be fascinating to see how it plays out.


Quotes: Mercantile Bank on Using PayPal for P2P Payments

By Jim Bruene on November 11, 2009 11:08 AM | Comments

image The biggest surprise of the year in the world of alt-payments is PayPal's newfound reach into banking circles as evidenced by their agreements with S1, FIS, and FirstData announced at last week's Retail Delivery conference.

But a huge question remains: Will banks play ball with PayPal or will they provide the same functions via home-grown solutions or non-PayPal alternatives such as CashEdge, Fiserv, or Visa/MasterCard?

I don't think anyone has that answer yet. There are simply too many variables. But if you believe there's no way a bank would use a "powered by PayPal" solution, read this quote by Mercantile Bank of Michigan's CIO, who plans on launching the S1/PayPal person-to-person mobile service next year (note 1):

"(PayPal) is a network, it doesn't scare me at all. They're never going to steal significant deposits out of our bank and keep [them] in PayPal accounts. Visa and MasterCard probably look at PayPal as the enemy, and they probably should, but that's their problem, not mine."
   -- John Schulte, CIO Mercantile Bank of Michigan in a
Nov. 10 article from Digital Transactions

1. You might remember Mercantile Bank from our May post lauding its fee-based consumer positive-pay service.


Numbers: Remote Deposit Penetration at Randolph-Brooks FCU

By Jim Bruene on November 6, 2009 9:35 AM | Comments

image In an article in today's Austin Business Journal about the coming launch of mShift-powered mobile remote deposit at Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union, the CU revealed its penetration number in its EasCorp-powered, home-scanner-based service, eDeposits:

Total members: 300,000
Total checking account customers: 202,000
% of checking using remote deposit: 5%
Number of remote deposit users: 10,000 (derived)
% of members using remote deposit: 3+% (derived)

The San Antonio, TX-based credit union expects more mobile users than in-home users. The product, which debuted at Finovate on Sep. 29, is currently being tested with employees before it rolls out to select customers.

imageUSAA was the first major financial institution to launch mobile remote deposits in August.  But WV United beat them to market in July earning our OBR Best in the Web award. And this week, speaking at BAI Retail Delivery, Bank of America's Doug Brown was bullish on the feature, leading many to believe that the giant would add the feature to its mobile offering at some point (see note). And if that happens, it's not inconceivable the feature could show up in television commercials, either from BofA or Apple.

1. In response to an audience question after his presentation, Brown said that the bank was seeing 1 million envelope-free deposits made at ATMs every day, and "there was an obvious use-case in mobile". Note that he did not specifically say, or even directly imply, that BofA would launch it, but he also didn't dismiss the idea. 


Bank of America App Shown in Sprint Android Microsite

By Jim Bruene on October 22, 2009 9:11 PM | Comments

image Once again, the first mover gets the attention. Bank of America, long a fixture in Apple iPhone advertising, now figures prominently in Sprint's marketing for the Google's Android marketplace.

In a whirling dervish of apps on the Sprint microsite, Bank of America's mobile banking app appears in the second set of four apps displayed (see screenshot below). 

Spring microsite featuring BofA app (link, 21 Oct 2009)


Android market has BofA mobile banking on the second page of top free apps (link)


Note: For more info on mobile banking via apps, see our Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via iPhone (March 2009)

Categories: Android, Google, Mobile Banking

The Impact of Always-On Mobile Banking

By Jim Bruene on October 12, 2009 3:57 PM | Comments (2)


There was an interesting piece by Jessica Vascellaro in the Technology supplement of today's Wall Street Journal. The title says it all, "Why Email No Longer Rules....and what that means for the way we communicate."

The primary thesis:

  • Old-school email is a passive way to communicate, more like a letter, and has been overrun by more information than the technology can manage.
  • It will be replaced by more active services (e.g., Twitter, Facebook) that are akin to a conversation with filtering technology to keep noise levels down.

But Techcrunch's MG Siegler's take on the matter is even more profound. He argues that the winning technology will be something that combines both active and passive communication, such as Google Wave (see inset; short video explanation here). Users will be able to choose between active or passive, or anything in between, depending on the situation.

Relevance for Netbankers
The passive vs. active communication metaphor is a good one for banking too. Passive banking is the old way of doing things. We waited for our monthly statement, balanced the account, and walked in to the branch or called customer service if there was a problem, usually many weeks after the fact.

Passive banking is not a bad thing. As long as there are no problems or financial shortfalls, it's the desired state for most customers. 

Telephone banking, then online banking, made it much easier to keep closer tabs on your account. Instead of reviewing transaction activity once per month, most users log in at least once per week to review activity. This helps ease anxiety during the intervals between looking at your data.  

But it's still passive in the sense that a user deals with banking only when the choice is made to log in. And that passive nature limits the usefulness of online banking in situations where a user needs to pay attention NOW! For example, security issues, low-balance alerts, over-budget warnings, and so on.

Enter mobile banking. With text messages or direct-to-the-phone alerts, users can have an always-on, or active, connection to their accounts. This is great for those infrequent, yet urgent, events such as authorizing an unusual card transaction.

But most users will want to be in active banking mode as little as possible. So the challenge for financial institutions will be to make it easy for mobile users to balance "active banking" (alerts, warnings) with "passive banking" (logging in, requesting more data, changing settings and preferences).

Ultimately, companies that well manage this communication challenge will have customers for life.

Notes: For more info on mobile banking, see our Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via iPhone (March 2009) as well as our earlier reports on Mobile Banking (Feb 2007) and Mobile Payments (April 2007).

Comments (2)

Mercedes-Benz Financial Launches Car Finance iPhone App

By Jim Bruene on October 6, 2009 11:33 AM | Comments (2)

imageAs an analyst who covers new developments in online and mobile finance, I will forever be grateful to Apple for opening up the mobile-phone platform, thereby unleashing a rush of innovations sure to rival the Internet circa 1995 to 2001 (note 1).

The latest financial app is from none other than Mercedes-Benz. The luxury-car maker has several iPhone apps available to its fans, but the latest, which appeared in the App Store last Tuesday, is specifically designed for its finance customers (iTunes link to app). It's the first captive finance company with its own app, at least in the U.S.

Other than the striking homepage image, the app is pretty pedestrian so far. It allows registered users (note 2) to make a car payment, calculate the pay-off amount, and find dealers and customer service numbers. In other words, it's a lot like the company's website ten years ago (note 3).

But that's OK, for now. Financial brands should take advantage of the free publicity of the iPhone App Store and  post something, even if it's just a window to their Web app (worked for Bank of America).

Along those lines, SunTrust (iTunes link) is the latest megabank to join the store (last week), leaving US Bank, Capital One, BB&T, and HSBC as the remaining top-10 U.S. retail banks without their own iPhone app. Who will be the last one in?

Mercedes-Benz Financial's homepage includes iPhone link (6 Oct 2009)


iPhone landing page (link)


1. For more info on the market, see our Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via iPhone (March 2009)
2. Users must set up a profile online at  before accessing their accounts via iPhone.
3. But I'm kind of surprised MB didn't include a payments calculator, standard fare at most car sites.

Comments (2)

Best of Web: Vantage Credit Union is First to Tap Twitter for Transactional Banking

By Jim Bruene on October 5, 2009 1:10 PM | Comments (5)

imageIn 2006, we predicted that every major bank and credit union would someday have a blog (note 1). That prediction was looking downright awful until Twitter came along. The popular, and much-hyped service, is part blog, part social network, and part text-messaging.

Financial institutions have embraced Twitter much faster than blogging because it's low cost, drop-dead simple to implement, and relatively cost-effective to staff and manage. Our good friend, Christophe Langlois, who has been tracking social media implementations at Visible-Banking for several years, has identified 120 financial institution blogs worldwide. In comparison, Christophe is tracking more than 700 Twitter accounts. Similarly, Jeffry Pilcher's exhaustive Twitter directory at The Financial Brand lists about 600 Twitter accounts in use by financial institutions.

Vantage CU takes the Twitter plunge
image Although Twitter can successfully be used as a simple one-way broadcast medium (i.e., microblog), it's also a powerful two-way and group communication service (note 2). Wesabe, in 2008, and Xpenser, earlier this year, were the first online PFMs to leverage Twitter for posting transaction info to user accounts. But St. Louis, Missouri-based Vantage Credit Union took that one step further by allowing users not only to query their accounts, but also to move money between them.

At the core, Vantage CU's Twitter service is little different than hundreds of SMS/text-message mobile-banking services already in use around the world. But for Twitter users, it allows account queries from anywhere a Twitter client is loaded: smartphone, laptop, or desktop (note 3).   

How it works
image Vantage CU posted videos showing how it works. But if you are a Twitter user, you can skip the tutorial. You'll understand right away: After signing up for the service at Vantage (inset), simply follow the CU on Twitter (@myvcu) and send them a direct message whenever you want to see your balance, recent transactions, or to initiate a funds transfer.

While the process is relatively intuitive for Twitter users, the command-code language limits the usefulness. The results look like a throwback to the DOS command line circa 1985 (see first screenshot below). It would be much simpler if the CU offered plain English commands and account nicknames, e.g., "transfer $500 from wifechecking to mychecking" instead of "#trans f9 t0". Ideally, the CU would support short codes for its power users and plain English commands for everyone else.

That said, it's pretty simple to remember how to make a checking account balance inquiry, "#bal 9" (9 is the code for checking), which is the primary way the service will be used.


Website implementation
Few members will actually use Twitter banking, at least initially. The main reason to embrace Twitter is for the publicity and brand value, especially when you are first.  Vantage takes full advantage of its first-mover position, placing a headline on its homepage, along with a Twitter feed directly below.

Other things Vantage CU does right:

  • Posted four how-to videos (although, the CU needs to choose a faster host for the videos because the Screencast-based videos run way too slow)
  • Posted FAQs, instructions, and screenshots
  • Wrote a blog post about the new service
  • Proactively reached out to bloggers resulting in great initial coverage (Financial Brand, Everything CU, and Currency Marketing) which can help bring mainstream press coverage later
  • Allows users to subscribe to the Twitter feed via RSS (directly from the CU's homepage)

image The PR value alone should more than justify the expense of Vantage CU's Twitter service. And if Twitter continues to work its way into the fabric of consumers' daily lives, the service could attract a decent following.

In keeping with our 10-year tradition of recognizing new online "firsts," we are awarding Vantage a 2009 Best of the Web award (note 4) for being the first in the world with full-service Twitter banking.

Vantage Credit Union homepage featuring new Twitter service (5 Oct 2009)


1. See our Online Banking Report: Bank 2.0 (Nov. 2006).
2. For more info, see our Online Banking Report: Leveraging Twitter (May 2009)
3. However, text-messaging users would likely prefer to make balance inquiries directly from their phone's SMS function, rather than taking the time to open the Twitter app or website. The most likely user is someone already using Twitter who decides to do a quick banking inquiry while Tweeting. 
4. OBR Best of the Web awards are given periodically to companies that pioneer new online and mobile banking features. It is not an endorsement of the company or product, just recognition for what we believe is an important development. Vantage Credit Union is the 75th recipient since we began awarding it in 1997.

Comments (5)

Mobile Banking Awareness at Financial Institutions: The Grades Are In

By Jim Bruene on September 11, 2009 3:42 PM | Comments

image Two days ago (here), I wrote about Citibank's smartphone banking awareness campaign on its homepage. Coincidentally, ABI Research yesterday published a rating of 17 U.S. major retail banks plus a dozen community banks (see note 1) on "discoverability" and "accessibility" of their mobile banking services (press release).

Surprisingly, ABI rated Citibank "average." I'm not sure what Citi did wrong (note 2) to get a "C," but one common technique of all ABI's A-students (see table below), is a "mobile banking" link on the homepage (see screenshots below).


  • Wells Fargo is the only bank to publicize a short mobile URL, (see final screenshot)
  • USAA is the only one of the six with an iPhone-optimized page rendered for users visiting its regular URL (see note 3) from the iPhone browser; this would be a minimal requirement for an A on our scorecard (if we were to make one)
  • Two of the six A-rated banks, BB&T and Northeast Bank, were also rotating a mobile banner ad on the homepage (see screenshots below).

Here are the ABI Research ratings:

Grade Bank Names
A BB&T, Eastern Bank, Fifth Third Bank, Northeast Bank, USAA, Wells Fargo
  B+ Bank of America, Chase Bank
B Capital One, US Bank, Huntington Bank
C America First, Bancorp South, Citibank, PNC, Wachovia
D Carolina First, 1st Bank, IBC Bank, Mercantile Bank, Regions Bank, SunTrust, Synovus
F M&T Bank, Provident Bank

The A students (all screenshots from 10 Sep 2009)



Eastern Bank


Fifth Third Bank


Northeast Bank




Wells Fargo


image Notes:
1. Another community bank with great mobile awareness is Farmers State Bank (click on inset right for a larger screenshot). Thanks to Laurie Goodlock at the bank for the tip.
2. We've requested the full report.
3. visitors also see a mobile-optimized site in their iPhone browser
4. Reference: Online Banking Report on Mobile Banking (Feb 2007) and Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via iPhone (Mar 2009)


Mobile Awareness: Let Your Customers Know They Can Bank Online via Smartphone Now

By Jim Bruene on September 10, 2009 1:31 PM | Comments (1)

image Yesterday, Apple announced it has shipped 50 million iPhone/iPod Touches in the past two years. And they are not even the smartphone leader. You can bet that many (most?) new smartphone-owning-online-banking-using customers haven't a clue how to connect to their financial institution through their mobile. And even if they know how, there's still that nagging doubt as to whether it's a safe/smart thing to do.

Therefore, if you want to drive significant mobile usage, there are a number of steps to take (see note 1). But one of the most important is user education, especially through online information, screenshots, and demos. 

Citibank recently elevated general smartphone awareness to its homepage (see first screenshot below). Yesterday, the bank was rotating an "Introducing CitiMobile for Smartphone" banner across the top of the homepage. The banner led to an educational page (see second screenshot, note 2), that led to clear instructions on how to bank via a mobile browser:

  • Open browser
  • Go to (note 3)
  • Log in using your same online banking credentials

While brevity is admirable, I think customers need a little more info than that. For a non-user, the process sounds almost too good to be true. The bank should elaborate on some key questions such as:

  • Is it secure? (see update below)
  • What does it cost?
  • Does it work on my phone?
  • What if I lose my phone?

Luckily, interested users can go to the well-designed demo that takes users through a semi-guided tour of the mobile banking functions. The Flash-based demo is partially interactive, allowing users to click buttons on a smartphone emulator (see third screenshot). After clicking on a new function, the demo takes over, completing the data entry and going forward to the next screen. Check it out here

Update (22 Sep 2009): An email from a Citi Mobile employee pointed out that I missed the security and other info in the right-hand column of the landing page below. I apologize for the omission. 

Citibank homepage (9 Sep 09)


Citi Mobile for Smartphones landing page (link)


Citibank mobile demo with interactive emulator


1. For more info, see Online Banking Report on Mobile Banking (Feb 2007) and Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via iPhone (Mar 2009)
2. The bank has separate pages for: Citi Mobile for iPhone and Citi Mobile for Other Models
3. Citi still has some work to do on optimizing the mobile Web experience (see update below). I navigated via my iPhone to its homepage (see inset) which looks terrible: The page is rendered impossibly tiny (requiring finger zooming), and because the two Flash-based animations don't work on iPhones, the top of the page is dominated by two empty boxes.

Update (22 Sep 2009): The site is now rendering perfectly on my iPhone. I see a mobile-optimized site similar to the Citi iPhone app. I'm not sure what was going on Sep 10 when I took this screenshot. It's possible I got the wrong page by navigating to Citi through the Google app. 

Comments (1)

ING Direct Releases Home Loan Toolkit for the iPhone

By Jim Bruene on September 4, 2009 12:05 AM | Comments (1)

imageHave I mentioned that the iPhone is amazing? I'm not sure if it's because it's so useful having a computer in my pocket 24/7, or that it gives me so much material for Netbanker and Online Banking Report (probably the latter).

Now that we are beginning the second year of the App Store, we are starting to see some more interesting things on the finance front. For the first year it was all about tip calculators, balance inquiry, ATM locators, and manual-entry expense trackers.

This summer, we're beginning to see the bigger potential with the launch of remote check depositing from WV United Credit Union and USAA (which also loaded helpful auto insurance features into its app). And Apple's new OS 3.0, which supports push notifications, will be a boon to mobile banking apps.

But that's just the beginning. There will be an app for anything you might want to do with your finances. The latest: a free Home Loan Toolkit for prospective home buyers from ING Direct Australia. The app appeared in the U.S. App Store yesterday (here).  There's no mention of it on the bank's website yet, but Google pointed me to the well-designed microsite (here) supporting the app (screenshot below).  

It's pretty straightforward with just three functions:

  • Calculators to determine how much you can afford to borrow and what the payments would be
  • A call-me request form
  • Average home prices by area

Screenshots from ING Direct Australia's new iPhone app (3 Sep 2009)

image   image   image

 image       image 

ING Direct Australia iPhone Home Loan Toolkit microsite (link, 3 Sep 2009)
Note: The five iPhone screenshots (above) rotate through the iPhone pictured below. Alternatively, users can scroll through the screens with the control under the phone.



Note: For more info on the native iPhone apps, see Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via iPhone.:

Comments (1)

Don't Waste the Marketing & Communication Benefits of an iPhone App Update

By Jim Bruene on August 31, 2009 4:29 PM | Comments

image I've written plenty about the importance of the iPhone App Store, both here and in Online Banking Report (note 1). But there's one subtle side benefit I hadn't thought too much about previously. 

Every time a new version of a native app is released, users must take action to download it if they want the new features. While this process used to be a nightmare in the desktop software days where users had to use floppy disks, CDs or large downloads to reinstall the software, it's an absolute breeze on the iPhone and usually takes less than a minute from start to finish. And there's no restarting the iPhone or choosing installation options. It's just a one-click process plus the input of your iTunes password if you weren't already logged in.

So why is this process a benefit? Because each time a new release is available a little icon shows on top of the App Store icon (see screenshot 1 below). Users then press the App Store icon, choose update, and they see a list of applications with updates available (screenshot 2). At that point users choose to update them all or look at them individually.

We believe most users are interested enough in their financial apps to take a look at the update, at least until the novelty of the mobile app wears off some years in the future. This provides financial institutions a free marketing opportunity to not only explain the new features of the app, but also deliver other marketing messages. You are much more likely to make an impression with your customers during the update process, compared to sending out a random marketing email.

In the three bank examples below, only USAA (screenshot 3) uses the opportunity to further cement its relationship with mobile customers, touting its new remote deposit capabilities along with several other enhancements. Wells Fargo (screenshot 4) takes a matter-of-fact, "we're fixing bugs" approach that is OK, but still misses the chance to communicate with users. But Chase (screenshot 5) completely annoys users with two sentences of marketing speak that says nothing about the update. 

Lessons for financial & mobile marketers: Whenever you release an update for your mobile app (note 2), take the opportunity to communicate with your customers as follows:

  • Clearly explain the benefits of the changes to the app
  • Highlight one or two related benefits of the app
  • Mention any related news or promotions
  • Strike a good balance between disseminating technical info and marketing new benefits


1. Main iPhone screen shows                        2. The Updates page shows the 4 apps
    that 4 app updates are                                       that have new versions available.
    available (right side halfway down).

image      image

3. USAA's latest update explains the specific changes made and provides several new benefits to using the app.


4 & 5. On the other hand, the Wells Fargo and Chase update messages are sparse. The Wells Fargo update appears to be a minor bug fix, so we'll cut them some slack for the terse message. However, Chase, with a minor update (2.0.1 update) to its major 2.0 release (released Aug 25), says absolutely nothing in 24 words of marketing-speak: 

We're listening -- You asked for a fully native iPhone banking application. This Chase iPhone app is built exclusively for iPhone and iPod touch users.

Seriously Chase, this is the best you could come up for the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of iPhone users waiting for your updated app? At least the bank gets points for brevity.

                   Screenshot 4                                                             Screenshot 5

image       image

1. For more info on the importance of a native iPhone app see Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via iPhone.
2. The same advice holds true for communicating online banking improvements as well, although the communication methods are different (email, newsletter, statement insert, blog, interstitials, log-off messages, etc.).


Banking Apps in the Google Android Market vs. Apple iPhone App Store

By Jim Bruene on August 24, 2009 6:10 PM | Comments (4)

image A few weeks ago, we noted a milestone at Apple's iPhone App Store, 1000 apps available in the finance category (U.S. store). I was been curious how that compared to Google's Android Market so today I did a quick comparison.

The Android market now has a respectable 211 apps in the finance category. However, few financial institutions have staked a claim. Only, Bank of America and Alliant Credit Union, had branded apps (see note 1, 2).

In comparison, the iTunes App Store has 11 U.S. banking apps and 3 from U.S. credit unions. That's up from 6 banks and no credit unions when we published our most recent report on the subject (see note 3).  See the the following table for details. Did I miss any? Let me know in comments or email

  Google Android (Rank) Apple App Store (Rank)
Number of finance apps 211 1,089
Number of U.S. bank-branded apps (note 1)

(number shown is rank in the finance category)
#2 Bank of America #1 Bank of America
#3 Chase
#4 Wells Fargo
#10 E*Trade
#13 Citibank
#28 & 32 PNC Bank
#43 BBVA Compass
#156 IBC
#409 1st Mariner Bank ATM/Branch locator
#962 Plaza Bank Mtg Calc
Number of CU-branded apps #30 Alliant CU -- ATM Locator #185 Tech CU
#327 CUloc8 (TDECU)
#411 iDeposit (WV United FCU)

Source: Online Banking Report tally, 24 Aug 2009

1. In addition, Qualcomm's Firethorn unit has an app that works with several dozen banks and card issuers including Citi, Chase, Wachovia, SunTrust and USAA. It's ranked tenth in the Android Market and 15th in the iPhone App Store. Also, in the Android Market, Visa has a beta app that works with Chase cards ranked #77. However, according to commenters, that test is ending in September.
2. There are another 15-20 international banks listed in the iPhone App Store.
3. Our Online Banking Report on iPhone Mobile Banking was published March 11, 2009.

Comments (4)

USAA Hits 1 Million Mobile Users; Grabs Great Press Coverage with Remote Deposit Feature

By Jim Bruene on August 10, 2009 11:04 AM | Comments

imageThe New York Times ran a positive piece on USAA's mobile efforts today, leading with the bank's innovative mobile rimageemote check deposit service. A feature the bank announced in June and is rolling out this week.

USAA is the first major financial institution to use the iPhone's camera to allow customers to upload paper checks for automatic deposit. However, it was beaten to market by tiny WV United FCU, which launched a cruder version two weeks ago (previous post).

The San Antonio-based bank with 7.2 million customers, now has one million mobile users, a 14% penetration rate, up from 11% in May. It's the second U.S. financial institution (after Bank of America with more than 3 million; see note 1) to officially hit the million mark, though Chase/WaMu and Wells/Wachovia are believed to have passed that milestone last year.

Financial institution lesson: Mobile banking, and the iPhone specifically, still make a great story for the press (and customers). If you're first in your market with an iPhone app, or some other mobile milestone, let the media know.

Live demo of USAA's Deposit@Home iPhone app
Starts at 1-minute mark

1. 43% of BofA's mobile customers access via iPhone or iPod Touch. The bank does not yet support text-banking, so it's user base is skewed towards smartphone users.
2. For more info, see our Online Banking Report on iPhone Mobile Banking


1,000th iPhone Finance Application Added to Apple App Store Today

By Jim Bruene on July 30, 2009 6:23 PM | Comments

imageToday marked an Apple App Store milestone of sorts, the 1000th application available in the Finance category (USA store). Finance is less than 2% of the total store, which now stands at 63,300, according to

Lucky number 1000 was Easy Mortgage (iTunes link), a $0.99 mortgage calculator from Italian developer Nexus (screenshot below).

image Four other new Finance apps debuted today, just missing the 1000 mark: 

  • #997 MLM: A multi-level marketing guide from PTAJ Marketing for $2.99
  • #998 Renting: A guide to renting a house or apartment from also from PJAT Marketing for $2.99
  • #999 Forex: A guide to foreign exchange trading again from PJAT Marketing
  • #1001 TaxTax: A $1.99 sales tax calculator from Canbuffi Web Development

Bottom line: These thousand apps are just the tip of the iceberg for the Finance category. It will likely grow to well over 10,000 during the next few years as most major banks and credit unions add their own apps to the mix. 

Currently, there are fewer than 50 financial institutions with their own dedicated app, including eight of the top 15 (most popular based on recent download volume): 1st (Bank of America), 2nd (Chase), 3rd (Wells Fargo), 4th (PayPal), 8th (E*Trade), 12th (Citibank), 13th (USAA) and 14th (multiple banks via Firethorn).    

For more info on the features and benefits of a good financial institution iPhone app, see our recent Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via iPhone (March 2009). 

Categories: Apple, Mobile Banking, iPhone

Bank of America Implies that Branch Network Could Shrink 10% in Next Three Years

By Jim Bruene on July 29, 2009 10:41 AM | Comments (1)

imageIn what will surely be the first in a long string of similar headlines, the top of  yesterday's Wall Street Journal Money & Investing section declared:

BofA Plans to Cut 10% of Branches

The article, which has been picked up by nearly 100 news sites in the past 24 hours, reported that Bank of America was planning on reducing the size of its 6,000-branch network. There were no details on timing or whether the bank was retreating from certain markets or was simply pruning overlapping branches broadly.

But in later interviews with bank execs, it sounded like Bank of America was merely predicting a gradual shrinkage in its branch network over the next three years, and had no firm plans for specific closures. Here's a followup quote from president Liam McGee as reported by Charlotte NPR station WFAE:

"I think <CEO Lewis> was asked a question, 'Boy, could there be x-percentage less branches in the next few years?' And he was just saying, 'Yeah, could be, and if there was it would be in magnitude of this as opposed to a much higher number.'"

McGee says the bank is going through a 3-year evaluation process that could result in fewer branches, but that no particular number is targeted. He says customers' changing habits are driving the process.

What I found more interesting in the debate were some of the numbers the bank tossed out showing the growth of it's non-branch delivery:

  • Nearly 50% of deposits are made in ATMs...up amazingly from 33% six months ago. The bank didn't say whether this was NUMBER of deposits or VALUE of deposits, but it's likely the former. Also, it's unclear if remote deposits made via scanner are included in the total. That new technology is making a significant dent in branch-based deposits at many financial institutions.
  • 2.8 million customers are now using the mobile channel which was introduced in mid-2007. That's an average of about 120,000 new customer per month. However, growth appears to have accelerated slightly this year. In early Feb, the bank said it had 2 million mobile banking customers; so in the past 5.5 month, growth has been just under 150,000 new users per month.   
  • The bank has a 60% market share in online bill payment; an amazing penetration for a bank with 12% of the country's deposits. 

1. See our Online Banking Report: The Demise of the Branch (April 2006), for more on the long-term trends in the mix of branch and alternative delivery.

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Addison Avenue Credit Union Provides Secure VIP Access Powered by VeriSign

By Jim Bruene on July 21, 2009 6:03 PM | Comments

image A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to tour the British Museum's exhibit on the history of money. And one thing that remains the same throughout the millennia, a concern about the security and authenticity of the various objects used to convey wealth.

It's no surprise that security is the number-one online banking concern of today's consumer. Had there been market research three thousand years ago, I'm sure security would have been at the top of the list of fears of the Chinese rich enough to hold a cache of cowrie shells (inset).  

imageSo, until we figure out a way to eradicate crime, financial institutions need to address security concerns head-on and provide tools for consumers to take more control (note 1).

That's what I love about Addison Avenue FCU's launch of VeriSign's Identity Protection (VIP) security tokens. Addison Avenue members now have the tools to make their online banking extremely secure, should they desire to. And with set-up charges of $30 to $48 (waived for mobile) and an annual fee of $10 (waived the first year), the program is relatively self-funding (screenshots below).

As an added bonus, the "VIP Access" theme, even though it's powered by a security vendor, provides a nice boost to member relations. It also gives the CU an iPhone (link to app) and Blackberry presence it wouldn't otherwise have. 

Addison Avenue e2: The VeriSign program is one leg of a three-part effort dubbed E2, that the credit union launched today (press release; see third and fourth screenshots below).

The three core features:

  • VIP security: as outlined above (link)
  • E-deposit: remote check deposit via basic in-home scanner (link)
  • Mobile banking: mobile web-based (link)

Addison Avenue security key landing page (link, 21 July 2009)
A short informational video brings the service to life.


VIP token options shown on VeriSign's website


Addison's three-part "e2" effort is highlighted on its homepage


E2 landing page (from homepage)


1. Granted, most customers are not willing to spend the extra effort to bulletproof their accounts.  So extreme security measures such as this should be optional and carry a nominal extra fee. 
2. For more info on addressing security concerns, see our Online Banking Report on Security Marketing (published in 2005) and our more recent Online Banking Report on New Security Techniques published nine months ago.


WV United Federal Credit Union is First with iPhone-based Remote Check Scan & Deposit

By Jim Bruene on July 12, 2009 5:37 PM | Comments (2)

imageIn June, we reported on USAA's upcoming iPhone app that will support remote check deposits. But it looks like they were beaten to market by tiny WV United FCU headquartered in Charleston, WV. Haven't heard of WV United? They have just six employees, $11 million in assets, and 3,000 members.

But somehow they were able to pull off something that no other financial institution has yet to accomplish, accepting paper check deposits via a native iPhone application (iTunes link, see note 1 and 2). The application was added to the iPhone App Store on July 4, and the CU wasted no time in heralding the innovation with a homepage banner (see screenshot below).

imageThe application could not be simpler. Users take a picture by pressing the button on the left (see inset), verifying that the image is readable, then uploading with the button on the right. WV United uses the member's mobile phone number to apply it to the correct account. The latest iPhone OS 3.0 is required.

The credit union also accepts deposits via in-home scanners using secure file transfers powered by LeapFile (co-branded site here).

It appears both services simply send images to the credit union where an employee manually converts them to ACH items. According to the E-Deposit customer agreement, the first 10 items each month are free; a $1 fee per item for the remainder of the month is charged. This allows for collection of a bit of fee revenue from small business members, while enabling most consumers to use it free of charge.

Certainly, fraud possibilities exist. But the CU's normal deposit-processing controls should mitigate most of the risk (see E-Deposit funds availability policy here). 

Mitek Systems introduced a mobile remote-deposit system last year (post here), but it's not yet in production at any financial institutions. 

imageAnalysis: Although not a feature that will see widespread usage, mobile check deposits will prove convenient for certain customers, especially mobile small businesses. More importantly, it helps differentiate between online and mobile services.

So, for raising the bar in mobile banking, we are awarding WV United with our first OBR Best of the Web award for 2009 (note 3). In the 12 years we've given the award, WV United is by far the smallest financial institution to win. 

WV United FCU homepage with iPhone banner (11 July 2009)


iPhone app landing page (link)


1. Sometimes it's nice to be small. WV United has six employees total, according to NCUA data. Most large banks would have a project team larger than that just to do the feasibility study on mobile remote-deposit capture.
2. For more info on the importance of iPhone applications for financial services, see our recent full report: Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via the iPhone.
3. OBR Best of the Web awards are given periodically to companies that pioneer new online and mobile banking features. It is not an endorsement of the company or product, just recognition for what we believe is an important development. WV United is the 74th recipient of the designation since we began awarding it in 1997.

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Mobile Banking Forecasts (U.S.): TowerGroup vs. Online Banking Report

By Jim Bruene on July 3, 2009 3:16 AM | Comments (1)

image TowerGroup has just released a new research note discussing the growing adoption of mobile banking in the United States. The research unit of MasterCard is predicting a five-fold increase in active users (note 1) between year-end 2009 and year-end 2013.

In comparison, we (note 2) are projecting a four-fold increase. But either way, it's a phenomenal growth curve reflecting a market that financial institutions must pay attention to.

Following are the numbers Tower released; more details are contained in the full report (purchase here). I also compared to those that we projected in our Jan 17 Online Banking Report.

Please note: TowerGroup forecasts active USERS; we forecast active HOUSEHOLDS. There are about 1.9 adults (18+) per household in the United States, but often, not all of the adults in the household are active banking users, so it's a bit hard to compare the two figures. But if you assume 1.2 to 1.4 mobile banking users per household (note 3), we are pretty close th