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Banks Launching Mobile Banking for Commercial and Wealthy Clients

Banks are starting to look beyond mass retail customers in their mobile banking initiatives.

Though consumer initiatives have received most of the attention recently, at least two banks are extending the conveniences of mobile banking to other client segments, as well.

San Francisco-based Wells Fargo ($486 billion in assets) is rolling out a mobile banking pilot called CEO Mobile to its commercial clients. According to Megan Minich, the bank's SVP, wholesale Internet and treasury solutions, and head of the mobile technologies team, the product is an extension of Wells Fargo's CEO Portal online commercial banking product. "Mobile technology is the next big way customers will want to interact with their bank," she says. "We're building another channel for them."

According to Dan Schatt, senior analyst with Celent (Boston), mobile banking on the commercial side will be instrumental in helping executives and small business owners make speedier, more informed decisions. "These people need to be mobile," Schatt says. "Wherever they are, with mobile banking, they can facilitate payments to vendors and get balances in real time to speed their ability to make informed decisions." The added service value, he notes, could be a competitive differentiator for banks.

CEO Mobile is designed for any size business, explains Wells Fargo's Minich. Current functionality includes the ability to view interbank balances, wire activity and detailed account activity, she relates, adding that customers can select which accounts they wish to access via the channel. "[CEO Mobile] will enable customers to do things on their own schedule," Minich says, noting that additional features will be introduced throughout the year.

CEO Mobile is browser-based and uses software that can optimize the presentation of data for users' specific devices, Minich adds. All communication between Wells Fargo and the customer is encrypted via 128-bit SSL and uses the same authentication as the CEO Portal -- user ID, password and token, if necessary.

The Rich Get Richer Service

Meanwhile, Cherry Hill, N.J.-based Commerce Bank ($47 billion in assets) introduced mobile banking for its wealth management clients. The bank's proprietary, Web-based private banking platform, Virtual Private Bank, now can be accessed by PDAs with Internet browsers. The mobile offering gives private banking clients access to an up-to-date financial picture of all their assets as well as other information, such as stock trackers, according to Commerce. A seven-digit PIN and 128-bit SSL security is used to access the service.

Virtual Private Bank is provided through eMoney Advisor (Conshohocken, Pa.), a wholly owned subsidiary of Commerce Bank and a provider of wealth planning solutions. According to Edmond Walters, CEO and founder of eMoney, the mobile offering was a another way for Commerce to enhance service for an important customer segment.

The service is not transactional for the simple reason that there isn't customer demand for transactional capabilities on handhelds, claims Walters. "Customers don't want to transact business over a PDA," he contends, noting that they want immediate, convenient access to their personal information.

According to research by Aite Group (Boston), 90 percent of the top 100 banks said customer convenience was the top driver in their mobile deployments.

Although the basic principles behind commercial and private mobile banking are the same as retail mobile initiatives, there are differences, says Celent's Schatt, such as increased transaction volume and value, cross-border financial needs and more-complex financial relationships.

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