June 23, 2008

Adding Mobile to the Mix

BB&T ($132 billion in assets) is one of those banks. Paal Kaperdal, SVP and online channel manager for the bank, says the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based institution looked first at customer needs when developing its m-banking strategy. "Mobile is just one method, one touch point where we can extend what we already do with a client," he says. "We don't see [mobile] existing separately from all the other interactions. ... There are significant synergies in making it work seamlessly across the various touch points." Currently, BB&T offers mobile banking exclusively to its Internet customers.

However, Eskander Matta, SVP with San Francisco-based Wells Fargo's ($575 billion in assets) Internet services group, says his institution already has disconnected the mobile channel from Internet banking. "You're able to enroll for mobile whether you're an online banking customer or not," he explains.

Matta notes that the bank first tested mobile among its own team members. Wells Fargo rolled out a mobile browser for its consumers in July 2007, and it introduced text banking in October 2007, according to Matta, who reports that the mobile channel has been extremely well received.

"Adoption is exceeding our expectations, and the usage statistics are very promising," Matta relates, adding that two-thirds of those enrolled in Wells Fargo's mobile banking program have been active within the past three months. For customers, "Data is consistent across all channels," he says. "There's no latency."

Payments Precursor

Matta says the bank currently offers limited money movement between a customer's own accounts through the bank's browser. "We want to build up a base of mobile banking users, then hope that they will participate more in the mobile payment area."

BB&T's Kaperdal, however, says his bank doesn't have mobile payments capability right now. "We're looking and evaluating [the possibility]," he reports. "But the larger question is: Will [mobile payments] be new revenue, or is it just shifting revenue from one payment form to another?"

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