Mobile has quickly become an important channel for banks. No longer an emerging technology, consumers are becoming more comfortable using their mobile devices for a wide range of financial services.
At Bank of America, mobile innovation is a major focus for the bank in 2013 and beyond, according to Hari Gopalkrishnan, Consumer & Wealth Management eCommerce Technology, Consumer Banking Architecture and Segments Technology executive at the bank.
"Our customers tell us they want the bank to be where they are," he explains. "Mobile has a far greater relevance in the day to day life of our customer.
According to Gopalkrishnan, Bank of America views its mobile strategy as a "four-legged stool."
The first aspect, he says, is account information and transactional capabilities, such as customers being able to view account details and transfer funds.
The second is the service aspect of mobile, notes Gopalkrishnan. For example, if a bank customer is traveling internationally, giving them the ability to place a travel flag on their account via a mobile device rather than having them call in to speak to a customer service representative adds convenience for the customer, he notes.
Thirdly, Bank of America is focused on mobile payments and commerce, Gopalkrishnan says. The bank is already offering several services in this regard, including its clearXchange person-to-person payments network jointly operated by Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo.
Gopalkrishnan says p2p payments services will be a big part of mobile financial services going forward.
"We are moving towards a cashless society," he reflects. "All the things we do today with checks and cash, we can make available through an online and mobile experience."
Another aspect of Bank of America's mobile commerce strategy is its BankAmeriDeals merchant-funded rewards program, which allows customers to receive coupons from retailers by clicking on offers sent directly to their online banking accounts. The Bank of America mobile banking app was upgraded in August 2012 to include BankAmeriDeals, which is available via the mobile banking app.
The bank has partnered with analytics and card transaction company Cardlytics on the service. The deals are based on a customer's spending habits and can be redeemed by using a Bank of America-branded card when making the purchase.
Gopalkrishnan believes BankAmeriDeals improves upon the typical "daily deals" offering because it is targeted based on customer spending behavior.
"The customer says 'I want to save money but it should be on things I care about based on what you know about me,'" he says. "Analytics is the underpinning of a lot of what we do."
Gopalkrishnan is quick to add that the bank never shares customer information with merchants. "Our efforts around privacy will never be compromised," he says.
Gopalkrishnan believes that mobile capabilities can also spur the future evolution of the BankAmeriDeals program, such as by using geo-location technology to alert customers in the vicinity of a retailer they have a coupon for, although this function is merely hypothetical at the moment.
Lastly, Gopalkrishnan says another major aspect of mobile is PFM. He says BofA looks at different customer segments in trying to tailor PFM products.
"A mass retail customer likely will want spend analysis -- 'How am I doing against my budget?'" he says. "A high net worth client may want estate planning advice."
Gopalkrishnan believes the tablet will really help to bring PFM to the next level. He says the ability offer rich media, more information on a larger screen, and potentially video and live chat make the tablet a highly attractive platform for designing PFM services.
There is a lot of talk about how banks can best leverage the social media channel. Initially, the most important thing for the bank was listening, "making sure we are out there on those platforms," Gopalkrishnan says. Currently, the bank offers some services through its Facebook page, including the ability to schedule an appointment with a bank associate and locate nearby ATMs.
Gopalkrishnan says BofA has the ability to offer these services with other social media sites, but has not yet done so since the customer demand is not there. But Bank of America is prepared to offer similar services on any social media site.
"We are social network agnostic, the idea is never to be married to one platform," he says.
At the moment, Gopalkrishnan does not see Bank of America offering financial products via social media, even though it has the technological capability to do so.
"There are a number of things we can do, but we want to be very sensitive to our customers’ needs and perceptions," he says. "As we evolve, we will continue to explore appropriate ways to provide richer functionality while never losing focus of our obligations to privacy and confidentiality.”
Bryan Yurcan is associate editor for Bank Systems and Technology. He has worked in various editorial capacities for newspapers and magazines for the past 8 years. After beginning his career as a municipal and courts reporter for daily newspapers in upstate New York, Bryan has ... View Full Bio