By Maria Bruno-Britz, Bank Systems & Technology
Sometimes I'm so wrapped up in our little banking world here that when I see the general public taking an interest in bank technology, I think it's a pretty big deal.
While perusing the site Slashdot-which bills itself as providing News for Nerds-I noticed someone posted an excerpt from CNBC.com about the recent crop of mobile banking initiatives in the U.S.While the article itself provided information that was old hat for those of us in "banking circles," I found the ensuing comments by other Slashdot readers even more interesting. There was actually quite a lively debate on the topic by the site's readers-most of whom, though technically savvy, are not bankers.
The viewpoints were varied. Some observations were amusing, like the one person who said that when he hears the term "mobile banking" he's reminded of traveling through southern Missouri and actually seeing physical banks set up in large mobile homes.
Some felt mobile banking to be unnecessary and just a bunch of hype while others did seem to think that, though not vitally important their everyday lives, mobile banking would be a nice convenience. Others just didn't think mobile banking was going to turn out well at all, many stating security as the roadblock. This I found interesting as evidence that there is still a perception in the public (even among supposed "techies") that mobile transactions are unsafe. There were a few people, however, who were educated enough to point out that mobile banking transactions can be just as safe as those done online with a PC-128-bit SSL encryption, etc.
Then there were the comments from the international front. Readers from Europe, Asia and Latin America chimed in, stating how surprised they were to hear that mobile banking was just coming to the U.S. now. Well, as anyone from the FS industry would tell you, this is because of one part lack of interest and two parts of it not being necessary. After all, much as we complain about prices and taxes, the telecom system in the U.S. is pretty good compared to what other countries use, so we've been satisfied with the banking channels we've had.
I think the most interesting perspective was from someone who claimed to be in IT at a bank. He said his bank was piloting a mobile banking product and that the general response from his co-workers was along the lines of "ho hum," that they wouldn't be so inclined to use it. Once more, this illustrates the fact that there is a huge amount of uncertainty in the mobile banking market. Although study after study is released expounding the virtues of the mobile channel and how Americans are ready for this kind of banking, still more studies abound saying that the numbers aren't as great as we're lead to believe.
I think that at this point in time, banks are in a good position to test the cell phone banking waters a bit more aggressively than they did in the past. Cell phones today sport more advanced features than ever before and it seems like just about everyone has a phone glued to their ear. Of course, it will take a few of years before consumers latch on to this channel, but it will happen. And mobile payments will only serve to drive adoption of mobile banking further.