PASADENA, Calif. -- Talk about being a fly on the wall.
John Best, vice president/CTO of $3.7 billion Wescom Credit Union, has been selected to sit on a panel of experts at the Online Banking Summit 2007, to be held March 12-14 in Charlotte, N.C. Geared to the banking industry, Best will be joined by speakers from heavy-hitters like Wachovia Corp., Fifth Third Bank and Wells Fargo.
Best said he was chosen because of his relationship with Wescom vendor MarkMonitor, a San Francisco-based online identity security company. MarkMonitor detects and shuts down phishing sites for Wescom.
"We're happy with MarkMonitor's service, they've been very good to us. Royal Media (producer of the event) has done articles where they've interviewed me regarding phishing incidents, the future of phishing, and steps we've put in place as counters beyond what MarkMonitor does, things we've learned on our own. Apparently, they enjoyed my harebrained schemes enough to put me on the panel," Best said with a laugh.
The CTO said he was "thrilled" to be selected for the New Frontiers Panel, which will appear at five sessions during the event, covering topics such as new products and technologies, the evolution of retail, security technology and mobile banking, a topic of particular interest to Best.
While he's keeping a close eye on the emerging technology, Best said he's not inclined to spend a significant portion of his budget to interface Wescom's banking system with cell phones. Not just yet.
"I would say I'm cautious approaching mobile banking, because interfaces and connectivity continue to improve with each new device. You look at the new Razors, the new Blackberries, and you see support for Java and things that previously were not there. They continue to creatively find ways for interfaces to work together, and then you look at some of the new platforms out there, they are starting to bring mobile to the table, too.
"It's just speculation, but I believe mobile will come to me before I come to mobile. I'm interested to see if anybody else thinks that, or if they are spending money on it," he said. Current mobile banking technology, already popular in Asia and Africa, allows customers to transfer funds from their financial institution to their mobile phone account, using those funds to not only pay for mobile services, but also purchase retail items and pay bills. Some services even allow customers to directly deposit paychecks into their phone account. Best isn't convinced the new technology will completely replace current online banking platforms in the U.S., but rather, enhance them.
"For instance, one idea I have is a new twist on the voice response. You can call the credit union and conduct transactions via voice commands. And, when you're finished, you could press a button and have it automatically email or text you with the account information you want, confirming your transaction," he said.
Best also thinks consumers will want financial institutions to implement some sort of push mechanism to mobile devices to communicate when a certain balance has been reached, or when a check clears.
"People don't want to have to check for everything, they just want to know when it happens," he said.
In preparation for the event, Best said he would study up on online banking issues that are specific to banks, like bank-to-bank system integration.
"I have no idea what I'm in for, so we'll see how it goes. I'm interested to see how the for-profit mindset makes things different," he said. --firstname.lastname@example.org