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Mobile banking trends to watch out for in 2012

Mobile banking will continue to grow next year across a multiple fronts. Not only will more banks jump into mobile with optimized sites and application, but financial institutions will also build their existing mobile programs with a variety of new services.

Much of the interest in mobile banking is being driven by consumers, who tend to interact more with a mobile banking solution than they do Internet banking. On average, customers use a mobile banking app three times per week and only use traditional Internet banking two times per week, according Malauzai Software.

“We see a demand for mobile via the application and text messaging,” said Jim Simpson, vice president of information technology at City Bank Texas, Lubbock, TX, which has over 30 locations across Texas.

“We are looking to provide innovative services to our customers,” he said. “We have to be competitive and to be competitive you have to offer these services.

“If we can move certain things to mobile so customers can do them on their own time via mobile, it’s a big advantage. It is a stickiness that gets them to stay with us.”

For example, City Bank Texas will introduce a new service early next year that enables customers to quickly and easily temporarily turn off their debit card via the mobile app if they have lost it and then turn it back on just as easily. Currently, customers have to find and call the bank’s 800 number to accomplish this.

Here, in no particular order, are a few of the trends that will play a role in mobile banking next year.

Mobile check capture
Many of the big banks currently give customers the ability to deposit checks into their bank accounts using their mobile phones. However, next year more banks are likely to jump onboard and offer this service to meet consumer demand.

Malauzai Software’s research shows that a lot of bank customers are investigating remote capture on their mobile phones even if they have not made a deposit yet. For those customers who are using the service, they typically deposit one to two items per month.

“We see mobile check capture becoming really big in 2012 – we expect over half of our clients to adopt it next year,” said Robb Gaynor, chief product officer and co-founder of Malauzai Software Inc., Austin, TX.

“It meets a very specific need for customers but it is not something that they are going to use all time,” he said.

Banks that feature a rewards program will increasingly look to mobile to drive interactivity for the program and drive customers back into mobile banking apps.

For example, City Bank Texas offers a rewards account that enables customers to earn higher interest rates and ATM fee refunds based on how much they use the bank’s various services. However, because there was no way for customers to keep track of how many transactions they made or how close they are to earning a reward, customers were frequently calling the call center for this information.

To address this, City Bank Texas put a real-time reward monitoring service in its mobile app. Now customers can use the app to find out how many more transactions they need to reach the next level of rewards.

Person-to-person payments
Person-to-person payments have been around for several years but use has been limited because the transactions did not take place in real time.

However, with Visa recently changing certain rules to enable two consumers to exchange debit card information in a secure way, person-to-person payments will now be able to show up in someone’s checking account within seconds. Visa is expected to roll out a solution for person-to-person payments in the first quarter of 2012.

“With real time settlements, you will see a lot more customers use person-to-person payments,” Mr. Gaynor said. “We see this as the beginning of real mobile banking.”

Some banks may try to ease customers into mobile payments to get them comfortable with the idea. For example, City Bank Texas will give mobile customers next year a way to manage their prepaid, loyalty and gifts card via the mobile app.

“This is the first step to moving customers to mobile payments concepts,” City Bank Texas’ Mr. Simpson said. “New companies are sprouting up weekly to do mobile payments but the problem is that the debit card is not broken yet – it is still relatively easy to swipe that card.

“So, we said, let’s introduce something that they can gravitate to,” he said.

Mobile marketing
Mobile offers and deals from retailers and third-party services such as Groupon and others were a big phenomenon in 2011. Next year, banks will be looking to cash in on the opportunity here by providing local offers via their mobile banking apps.

Bank customers will be able to opt-in to the service so they can receive offers via the mobile banking app when they walk past a local business making an offer and redeem the offer via the app as well.

In the past, banks have been reluctant to allow other business to market to their customers but because of the personal nature of a mobile phone and the ability to serve offers based on a customer’s location, this is starting to change.

“We see this as a huge opportunity for banks to start making money through the mobile channel as offers are redeemed,” Malauzai’s Mr. Gaynor said “We feel it can be pulled off in an unobtrusive, value-added way.”

Customized apps
Currently, a lot of banks have one mobile app for all of their customers. However, next year there will be a growing number of customized banking apps that are tailored to the needs of a specific customer group.

For example, regional banks could customize apps based on which local market a customer belongs to. Or, an app could be customized to the needs of college students, who often have a different set of services available to them.

“The first generation of mobile apps lost some of the customization found in Internet banking but now we are seeing more customized mobile experiences,” Mr. Gaynor said.

“This is an example of how mobile banking is getting smarter and banks are trying to deliver a better mobile experience,” he said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York