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Charles Schwab accelerates mobile strategy

The app, which is free in Google’s Android Market, lets consumers make direct deposits by snapping a picture of the check and submitting it through their smartphone. Additionally, users can transfer money between accounts, place trades and view account balances.

“The mobile environment is relatively new, and evolving rapidly, so it’s important to move quickly, but strike the right balance between getting the product to market and delivering a great user experience, ” said Diane Russell, senior vice president of platform services at Charles Schwab, San Francisco.

“More specifically, there’s also a wide variety of Android devices in the market, and we had to be certain that the app was tested appropriately across all of them,” she said. “Finally, from a design perspective, we had to make sure that the app was easy to read and navigate.”

Charles Schwab is a leading provider of financial services, and has more than 300 offices and 8.1 million client brokerage accounts, 1.44 million corporate retirement plan participants, 728,000 banking accounts, and $1.7 trillion in client assets.

The Android development comes weeks after the company introduced an iPhone app.

Bank on mobile
Besides making mobile deposits, users can also view account balances and transaction histories, follow real-time quotes and charts, track orders and trade stocks, mutual funds and EFTs.

Later this year, Charles Schwab plans to release a tablet app as well as upgrade its mobile Web site.

“We believe we have the most comprehensive mobile offering in the industry,” Ms. Russell said.

“Unlike other firms, Schwab’s mobile app for iPhone and Android is integrated across all clients’ banking and brokerage accounts, including 401(k) and employer-sponsored equity award plans,” she said.

A recent study conducted by marketing research company Kelton Research for Charles Schwab surveyed 2,000 consumers and found that seven in ten Americans aged 18-44 would like to deposit a check using a mobile phone because of convenience. However, only 28 percent of respondents currently use a mobile phone for banking needs.

“Our strategy is simply to provide our clients with choice when it comes to interacting with us,” Ms. Russell said.

“We know that people like to do business through multiple channels – online, mobile and in person,” she said.

Charles Schwab is promoting its app through a mix of marketing channels, including the company’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Chasing deposits
Similar apps that allow for direct deposit are also offered by competitors, including Chase, ING and Bank of America.

In addition, 30 million U.S. consumers accessed financial services through mobile devices in the last quarter of 2010.

Most recently, eBay’s PayPal service updated its Android application to let U.S. consumers transfer checks by mobile devices (see story).

“We believe that the trend is for people to increasingly adopt and use mobile devices for banking and investing much like they adopted Internet banking and investing over the past decade,” Ms. Russell said.