Conferences, white papers, surveys, pilot programs, new applications all screamed the same refrain in 2012: mobile banking, mobile banking, mobile banking.
Disruption. Disintermediation. Reinvention. These three themes rocked the first installment of Money2020, a bustling conference that attracted a full house of 2,000-plus attendees. And it brought in very senior executives from major financial services players ranging from American Express to Visa, MasterCard and Discover; from Wells Fargo to Bank of America; and from Google to PayPal. Money, old and new, crammed into the Aria hotel in search of a roadmap to what it will look like in a scant eight years.
The biggest headline out of the conference: the mobile phone changes everything.
Mike Cook, a Walmart vice president whom MIT’s Technology Review recently called the most powerful man in payments, threw down the gauntlet at Money2020. He stated that if a payments solution portraying portending to be new does not build upon the inherent security and intelligence built into the smartphone, Wal-Mart wants no part of it. Period.
“I do not see EMV playing a role in payments,” Cook pronounced. He explained that the chip and PIN toolset “is just replicating the existing system. Phones are much smarter than that.” Cook and Walmart have already dissed near field communication, saying that favorite of companies such as Google has no obvious place in Walmart’s plans.
And then Cook threw out his real zinger. “Think about how easy it will be to disintermediate financial institutions. I do not think they even see this coming.”
The plain message at the mid-October BAI Retail Delivery conference was that a new day is dawning in financial services, it’s no longer your grandfather’s spread business and new tools bring new opportunities to those who figure out how to use them.
The conference offered panel after panel on mobile banking, peer-to peer-payments and the rules of engagement with social media. It also included a tentative obituary for near field communication, an innovative payments technology around which enthusiasm seems to be crumbling.
But the biggest and longest buzz at this year’s BAI, the sessions that played to full houses, was anything mobile and at least one big idea seemed to start to take hold. The current crop of mobile banking apps just aren’t good enough anymore, not in a world populated with glitzy smartphone games and slick personal financial management tools. The antidote: mobile banking apps 2.0.
Apps developer mFoundry, a Larkspur, Calif.-based company with 800 mobile banking customers, announced at BAI that it was opening its app to include content from a range of third- party developers. mFoundry CEO Drew Sievers pointed to payments innovator Dwolla and prepaid card specialist Blackhawk Network as cases in point. Sievers claimed that not only will the more powerful app that results be more engaging for consumers, it will also produce new revenue streams for the financial institutions that hop aboard. He envisioned a three-way split of profits resulting from sale by Blackhawk Network on a prepaid card, with Blackhawk, mFoundry and the financial institution all sharing in the proceeds.
At another panel, Matthew Wilcox, a senior vice president at Zions Bancorp., a Salt Lake City-based institution, tossed out a staggering figure that validates why mobile is gaining so much popularity with bankers. It costs on average $4 per in-branch teller visit versus 8 cents per mobile banking transaction.
Wilcox added that mobile banking customers are more profitable ($450 in annual profits per head at Zions versus $350 per online banking only customers). And they are far more loyal. In a year, only 1,5% will leave the institution compared to 4% of online banking customers. Add it up, said Wilcox, and not only is mobile the lowest-cost channel in banking history, it is producing good customers.
Further fueling the mobile fever, Raddon Financial Group’s Spring 2012 National Consumer Research study, which is based on 1,230 survey responses gathered in February of this year, showed that household mobile banking use has more than tripled in two years from 6% in 2010 to 20% in 2012.
It is projected that mobile banking use is likely to follow the adoption path that online banking has taken since 2001 as consumers gravitate to the anywhere access channel that allows them to better manage their personal financial affairs by checking their monthly account balances, paying bills, transferring funds, or making person-to-person payments, according to Raddon.
The research revealed that beyond the transaction nature of mobile mania, the use of tablet devices is also growing and will be the landscape from which personal financial management programs will be delivered to the technology-oriented consumer that has been bred. Just as one format for mobile banking enters the mainstream, another form is beginning its stampede across the financial services landscape.
The word among some industry leaders is that, suddenly, apps for tablet computers are a must- have. Transformational as mobile phones have proven, the changes now are accelerating with tablet computers such as Apple’s iPad and Amazon’s Kindle Fire.
“Mobile is a member service. And our members have told us, very plainly, that they want us to offer tablet apps,” said Sonya McDonald, a senior vice president at the $5 billion Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union in Live Oak, Texas.
RBFCU responded to that demand by recently introducing multiple tablet apps.
“We will have 96% of the tablet market covered,” said McDonald, meaning just about any tablet owner will be able to download an app that works on their device.
RBFCU presently offers an app for sector leader iPad, which still dominates tablet sales. The credit union also just introduced an app for Amazon’s Kindle Fire, by far the hottest selling Android tablet.
Visa got in on the act late this year. Credit unions that process their payments with FIS and The Members Group are among the first to have the chance to sign on with V.me, Visa’s new digital wallet program designed to make online shopping easier and more secure.
The FIS processing credit will unions will be able to access the new program through membership in Card Services for Credit Unions, the association of credit union that process payment transactions with FIS.
“As online, mobile, and physical payment environments converge, we are excited to provide our credit unions and their members access to the next-generation of payments solutions with V.me,” said Robert Hackney, president of CSCU.
V.me presents an opportunity for issuing credit unions to strengthen account holder relationships by offering a new service that addresses the growing trend toward shopping online, CSCU said. “Through credit union branding and Visa-backing, account holders can shop with comfort and checkout with ease knowing they’re protected by layers of security within Visa’s industry-leading network. Once logged into V.me, all that’s required to make a purchase is a simple click of a mouse, touch on a mobile browser, or in the future, a wave at the physical point-of-sale,” CSCU said.
Another new partnership between the World Council of Credit Unions and Boom Financial, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based firm that provides mobile banking and money transfer services to immigrant and unbanked families, is poised to pump new life into credit unions in developing countries.