By Nancy Feig
"If Paris Hilton can have her Sidekick hacked, how safe am I?" This comes from my (highly educated) friend when asked if she would try mobile banking. Another response: "I'm not that rich that I need to keep track of my accounts every minute. I'd rather play Tetris."Yes, the vendors are saying the time has come for mobile banking, but an informal survey of my Gen-Y friends proves that they are not quite ready or in need of this new technology. And this group is allegedly the most likely to use mobile banking. I doubt that older generations are the target demographic for mobile banking - most of our parents have not even mastered online banking (they feel that their personal info will get lost somewhere in cyberspace).
However, some big banks are hoping that if they build it, we will come. Bank of America (Charlotte, N.C.), Citigroup (New York), Wachovia (Charlotte) and, in its second attempt, Wells Fargo (San Francisco) are betting on the fact that my friends and those like us will change our minds.
To do so, they will first have to convince us of a few things: • It will be cheap. Most mobile phone carriers charge for Internet usage. • It will be reliable. What happens to the transaction when a connection is interrupted or dropped? • It will be safe. Can your accounts be hacked? What happens when the phone is lost or stolen?
Here We Go Again This week, Provenir, a provider of enterprise software, released a white paper on mobile banking, titled, "Multi-Channel Banking: Banks Go Mobile. Again."
The white paper says that things that held mobile banking back before - lack of Web browsers on phones, no standard mobile technology, consumer skepticism - are now mostly gone.
The paper claims that technological advances, better understanding of technology and more tech-savvy consumers make today's environment ripe for mobile banking.
Provenir says that "very soon we will expect the fruit stand on the corner to accept payment through a mobile phone." Really, will we?
I do not doubt that mobile banking is something that will happen in the future, but how far into the future is the question. First the banks have to convince us that this is something that we need. Until then, my friends and I will stick with text messaging and Tetris.