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Citi eliminates mobile banking log-in for easy access on the go

Following a successful beta test, Citi is launching a new opt-in feature nationwide which enables customers to view sensitive account information in their Citi mobile banking app without log-in friction, making it the first major U.S. bank to offer such a preference.

The introduction of Citi Mobile Snapshot comes after a three-month beta test, which revealed more than half of responders from an initial sampling pool of several hundred choose to enroll in the feature, and more than 70 percent of those opt-in users rated their Snapshot experience as good or excellent. With major banks increasingly competing on the basis of mobile convenience, other financial institutions are likely to follow suit with similar offerings.

“I’m not sure if Snapshot is something that will become a ‘must-have,’ though it is surely valuable in convenience,” Mr. O’Brien said.

“Citi may want to further be a part of the onboarding and education process for fraudulent concerns because smaller and other larger banks may be planning or already working through other partners to implement the same technology,” he said.

“Other institutions won’t be far behind, and I predict features like this will be more widely available in the near to immediate future.”

Citibank did not meet press deadline.

Simplifying UX
A survey conducted by the Federal Reserve board indicates that 87 percent of individuals have used mobile banking services to check an account balance or recent transactions in the past year.  If Citi hopes to spur mainstream adoption among these users in one-touch access capabilities, it must ensure its mobile authentication methods have caught up to app development.

Citi’s newest form of delivering convenience, Snapshot will grant banking and credit card customers who choose to enroll quick access to their basic account information merely by tapping the Citi Mobile app.

The feature will benefit on-the-go individuals by displaying balances and the 15 most recent transactions without prompting  user for log-in every time.

Only those who permit the exhibit of account information will be enrolled, and any transactions sought to be made via the app will require log-in authorization.

Anyone who has have ever tried to log-in into a traditional mobile banking app knows that typing strong passwords, which often involve uppercase letters and numerals, for authentication is clumsy and burdensome. This task even on a larger screened PC is daunting, but truly negates the user-friendly interface most apps try to integrate.

Onboard with mobile trends
Major banks increasingly recognize the importance of offering mobile functionality that appeals to consumers.

Keynote, the global leader in mobile and web cloud testing and monitoring, yesterday announced the results of its most recent bi-annual Mobile Banking Scorecard, which named Wells Fargo as the top performing institution.

Wells Fargo took first place in three of four performance categories: functionality, ease of use, and quality and availability; and was also first in three of four mobile modes: mobile Web, iPhone and Android.

“Wells Fargo’s mobile offering stands out with extensive capabilities and design elements attentive to the unique needs of mobile users on the go,” said Ben Rushlo the vice president of analytics at Keynote, San Mateo, CA.

As of last February, the San-Francisco-based bank reported it had 94.7 million checking account holders, with about 9 million mobile users.

While Citi has not disclosed to the public how many of its customers engage on mobile, a study from Javelin strategy and research found that Citibank has the highest concentration of gadget-loving consumers in the U.S., with nearly four in ten of their account-holders saying they are the first to try new technology when it becomes available.

Javelin cites that Citi’s customers are more than twice as likely as the average U.S. online citizen to crave and brave new features.

This puts Citibank is in an entirely different position from which to market and launch the likes of mobile, social, online and other channel-based payments and financial services compared to other institutions.

Converting the wary
While Citi appears to be in a prime position with consumers for introducing mobile innovations, the question remains if security and fraud concerns will stunt the adoption rate of Snapshot for a group who seems to be fearless.

A survey by Forrester Research revealed that 44 percent of respondents said they would buy more through mobile devices if the mobile payment systems were more secure.

It appears that while many may be ready to hop the fence into greener pastures, a large portion of mobile banking users remain reserved on applications or options that could allow financial information to be easily stolen or misused.

Of course this can also happen with the now archaic password-based security measure; however one-touch access heightens the fear.

Fortunately, smartphones and other handheld devices have unique characteristics including touch screen, microphones, and gyroscopes that make advanced authentication efforts more possible.

Capital One lets mobile in with pattern passwords, and other banks have begun to explore biometrics like voice recognition and device fingerprinting to verify an account holder’s identity.

Still, smaller credit unions and banks such as Huntington and Bank of the West have already let customers view balances with single gestures, though Citi will prove in the coming months whether the tech stays or is sent back to the drawing board.

“Mobile Snapshot is very interesting in that offers information from which someone could access if opting in to SMS text notifications, but is more inclusive of mobile banking which is very impressive, “ said Ed O’Brien, director or banking channels at Mercator Advisory Group, Maynard, MA.

“Usually when you access a mobile app with intent to look at account information, there’s a multifactor authentication process.  With all the concern about security and similar issues, I think people would have to be educated in how this feature works to alleviate the leery and consequential possible lag on adoption.”

Final Take:
Michelle is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York