December 23, 2007

mobile banking icon

Nationwide Building Society ($340 billion in assets) is capitalizing on the hype surrounding new Apple (Cupertino, Calif.) products by offering access to its online bank via the Apple iPhone and iPod Touch. On Dec. 10, 2007, the Swindon, U.K.-based bank announced that its 3 million registered online banking users will be able to access the Nationwide Web site and Internet bank in the same way they access them from their home PCs.

Nationwide is one of the first financial institutions to launch an iPhone and iPod touch-banking solution, according to Roy Beale, press officer for the financial institution. "Very few providers are currently able to offer this service. But, because Nationwide has access to the widest range of browser formats of any financial services organization in the U.K., we were able to do so straight away."

Nationwide has a history of being a technology trailblazer. It was the first financial services provider in the U.K. to launch an online bank, more than 10 years ago, Beale notes. "This is the first time our customers have been able to access our main online bank via their mobile phone or iPod and not the cut-down version specifically designed for other mobile devices," he says.

According to Beale, Nationwide built the necessary capabilities in-house. It did not conduct a pilot, he adds.

Leverage the Buzz

Like Nationwide, other banks should take advantage of the buzz surrounding the iPhone, says Jim Bruene, editor of Online Banking Report. "It would be a good time to jump on the bandwagon," he says, noting that banks would be wise to take advantage of Apple's positive brand image and current popularity by associating themselves with the iPhone in some way. By using the iPhone in mobile banking marketing materials, or announcing compatibility with the iPhone, banks can draw more attention and more users to their mobile banking services, Bruene explains.

According to a Dec. 11, 2007, article in the Wall Street Journal, nearly one out of every 1,000 Web page views in November was from an iPhone. "IPhone users are the first people with a mobile phone to view Web pages at the same rate as people using a PC," writes WSJ.com blogger Ben Worthen.

The iPhone gives a peek into what mobile use will be like in the future, says the Online Banking Report's Bruene, noting that it's not certain how long it will be before usage of smart phones, such as the iPhone and the BlackBerry, will reach the tipping point among mobile phone users. However, Bruene predicts that within two years, the iPhone will enable contactless card payments via MasterCard, Visa or American Express.

Bank of America (Charlotte, N.C.; $1.3 trillion in assets) was the first bank to market its mobile banking solution around the iPhone. The bank's mobile banking solution is even included in the application directory on the iPhone and listed on Apple's iPhone Web site.

Bruene says that when users log on to Bank of America's Web site from the iPhone, it recognizes the device and provides a unique site that fits the iPhone's format. "The iPhone site has more choices than the general mobile Web-browser screen," he says.

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