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Q&A: BB&T's Mobile Banking Channel Manager

Bank Systems & Technology caught up with Patricia Kinney, mobile banking channel manager and VP at the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based bank, to learn more about BB&T's "simple" approach to mobile.

Mobile banking has quickly gone from a "nice to have" to a service all banks must offer just to remain relevant. BB&T ($157 billion in assets) was among the banks that got the message early -- it rolled out its first m-banking service in 2008 and continues to add to its mobile offerings today. The bank introduced an iPad app in January and another for Google's Android operating system in April. Bank Systems &Technology caught up with Patricia Kinney, mobile banking channel manager and VP at the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based bank, to learn more about BB&T's "simple" approach to mobile.

What mobile services does BB&T currently offer?

Kinney: BB&T Mobile allows our clients to choose the device and method of mobile banking. Not only does it support SMS text-based banking for those customers without smartphones, but we also have mobile banking apps for Android, Apple -- iPhone, iTouch and iPad -- and BlackBerry devices. And any device with a web browser can access our mobile website: bbt.mobi.

BB&T clients can check balances, view transaction histories and search for transactions by amount, date or type -- debit or credit. Using the smartphone apps, customers can even view the images of cleared checks or deposit slips. They also can initiate transactions, such as transferring money between accounts or paying bills, and they are able to locate the nearest BB&T branch or ATM by using the location feature.

We are constantly updating and improving our services, and have plans for more mobile features in the near future. The service is currently available to our retail and small business clients.

What is the technology behind the solution?

Kinney: To test the mobile opportunity and get started quickly, we began with a vendor solution in 2008. [Kinney declines to name the vendor.] However, our mobile platform was recently converted to an in-house solution to support the rapid growth in customers using it.

How many of your customers have signed up for BB&T Mobile?

Kinney: While that information is proprietary, I can say we have been very pleased with the number of clients who have actively enrolled in mobile banking and alerts. The growth in mobile adoption had been steady since we first introduced alerts and text banking in 2008. With the introduction of the Android app in April 2011 we are seeing even faster adoption than before.

How has the bank's mobile strategy evolved since 2008? What lessons have you learned?

Kinney: I wouldn't have done anything differently except to build the Android app sooner. The lesson learned is that in the mobile space it is possible for a brand-new platform to go from zero to a leader in the market in a year. So we pay close attention to what's changing in the market and try to remain very flexible.

Our overall strategy is to complement BB&T's physical and electronic presence with a range of secure mobile financial offerings to deliver anytime/anywhere access to our clients. In banking and other industries, the role and importance of mobile devices in the lives of our clients is growing and changing daily. We are exploring how the unique characteristics of mobile devices can be combined with BB&T's services to provide better experiences for our clients.

Social networking and mobile are becoming synonymous. What role does social networking play at BB&T?

Kinney: BB&T is involved in social media. Among other things, it's a wonderful way to listen and learn how we can improve. That said, though we do use social media, we really are just putting our toe in the water, so to speak, with Facebook. We don't use Twitter or have a blog currently.

What's next for the bank's mobile strategy?

Kinney: We want to continue to enrich the client experience on the mobile channel. Our iPad app is a great example of how we can do this in simple but powerful ways. It provides a single point of entry to learn more about BB&T's products and services, get educated on financial matters, open up new accounts and manage existing ones.

The app leverages the rich user interface of the iPad and makes all the relevant information and applications available in one spot. Our strategy will be to continue to develop the mobile channel as an access point to a broad range of BB&T services and to cross-channel experiences that enable our clients to achieve their financial goals.

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