Christine Barry, a research director at Aite Group LLC in Boston, said credit unions may have an advantage over other financial institutions when it comes to connecting small business members with mobile banking services.
"They really play up the benefit of high levels of member service," Barry said. "This may be a way for them to increase convenience to small business members and save them time by not having to go to a branch."
More than one-third of U.S. small businesses would be willing to consider using mobile banking if it were offered by their primary financial institution, and 27% would be willing to pay for the service, according to a recent Aite survey of 283 small businesses that generate less than $10 million in annual revenue. Because many financial institutions have deployed mobile banking services as a must-have to "keep up with the Joneses," the offerings have become commoditized, which has compressed vendor revenue opportunities.
By far, the most popular services are mobile bill payments, fund transfers and the ability to check balances, Barry said. However, an untapped service is within payroll processing.
"In lots of cases, business owners still have to approve a batch of payroll. Credit unions and banks can offer the ability to authorize those payroll batches," Barry suggested. A "positive pay" feature, which helps to prevent check fraud is another possible service that can offered through mobile banking, she added.
While more credit unions are starting to offer mobile banking, Barry said for most financial institutions, the service may fall on the middle of the list of priorities for the IT department. Another hindrance is training and education costs for staff and quelling member and customer concerns about security.
Barry said mobile banking should be an extension of a credit union or bank's online channel not necessarily a replacement for it or the traditional branch. Among other considerations to keep in mind for the small business owner is implementing an application that includes both text messaging and mobile Internet browser access. A downloadable application is among the must-haves for small business owners who are active users of smart phones and iPhones, according to the Aite survey.