Mobile banking is the next major, logical step in retail banking. And the exponentially increasing adoption rates prove its growing popularity. But how ready are financial institutions to choose a mobile-banking solution? Are they evaluating the options based on short-term knowledge of the technology, or do they truly understand the power this channel has to build and solidify customer relationships in the next two to five years? And have they truly considered what these new relationships can mean, not only to the customer experience but also to bottom-line profitability?
To truly understand, let’s take a look at a very real mobile-banking scenario: A consumer approaches an ATM to withdraw $200 from his checking account. His balance following this transaction will be $300. Because he has an auto loan from the same FI and also uses online bill payment, the FI determines that his balance will not cover his $325 car payment that is due in two days. A text alert is immediately sends a text message to his mobile phone to confirm he wants to proceed with the transaction, potentially saving him an unnecessary overdraft fee.
Never have financial institutions — or any other organizations for that matter — had a better opportunity to relate so intimately and relevantly with customers or members.
To fully grasp the impact, consider the long-term benefits of such an intimate customer relationship. Also consider the efficiency with which this relationship is delivered, when compared with other marketing efforts that can cost thousands of dollars with returns of less than 2 percent.
Today’s mobile-banking functionality represents merely a sliver of what the channel ultimately can do. For the FI, the mobile phone as a channel is really a proxy for the consumer. Wherever the phone is, the consumer also is. These days, half the world’s population is carrying a mobile phone.
So how can an FI best utilize this channel? The ones that will succeed with their mobile-banking deployment are those that use the channel for the purposes of timely, contextual and relevant messages to consumers.
How FIs capitalize on the mobile revolution
The real value in mobile banking goes far beyond simple account balance inquiries, transfers and alerts. Sure, there’s immediate payback to the FI in migrating these basic transactions away from costlier teller or call center alternatives, but the most important role mobile plays for FIs is in relationship building. It’s in integrating other delivery channels to give consumers new, value-added services and unprecedented convenience and control. It’s in providing a consumer a greater sense of security during an ATM transaction by authenticating the user. And it’s in facilitating payments as a means of avoiding a late fee or as an alternative to more expensive, less convenient options.
By leveraging existing ATM technology, FIs can capture consumer preferences and integrate that data with back-end customer relationship-management systems. Marketing offers, for example, can be timely, in context and immediate — all of which is enabled by the nature of the mobile channel. For that reason, it is possible to achieve double-digit response rates that dwarf those of traditional direct-marketing tactics.
With marketing via mobile phones, there are many more data points that can be collected, which helps FIs customize their communications. These increasingly customized communications yield more intimate relationships. And this integrated, immediate approach helps FIs bolster service and promote cross-selling opportunities to consumers who rely on mobile devices and those who are underbanked or don’t have convenient access to brick-and-mortar establishments.
Mobile banking as a channel strategy allows FIs to provide value-added services in helping consumers manage their money. Consider the wallet-management philosophy that some FIs have applied as an extension to online banking. It provides consumers with seamless access to their finances, along with intuitive, tangible and direct control of their money through tools, graphs and interactive features that help track spending and other activity. Expanding this concept to mobile banking and the ATM enables a new service once only intended for the Web that can benefit consumers in how they use other delivery channels. Adding mobile banking to wallet management enables the immediacy factor and two-way text alerts to dramatically improve the service FIs provide to their most committed customers and members.
Offering new services
Person-to-person, or P2P, payments, which enable consumers to make and receive payments with one another electronically, is just one of the new opportunities FIs can offer to strengthen the consumer relationship. In the United States alone, account-to-account transactions are a $320 billion industry. Mobile banking allows FIs to provide this service more conveniently and less expensively than existing wire-transfer methods by sending money to an individual’s phone number. By leveraging existing technology, P2P transactions are conducted on a mobile phone and a code is sent to the intended party’s phone. The person is then able to go to an ATM, enter the code and receive the cash. The phone becomes the information conduit to make this transaction happen seamlessly, while the ATM allows the cash transfer to take place in real-time.
An added security layer that mobile banking offers FIs and consumers addresses a high-profile area of vulnerability: skimming. For example, the end-user approaches an ATM to take out cash; he enters his PIN and instantly receives a text message requiring him to enter a one-time six-digit code at the terminal to complete the transaction. This consumer card-control solution utilizes one channel to protect what is happening in another. Other mobile banking security tactics include proximity-based alerts, which further mitigate fraud due to skimming. This innovative security software can validate the card being used at an ATM, as well as the location or proximity of the accountholder’s mobile phone in relation to that specific ATM. If the software can’t detect this relationship, the transaction is terminated.
Developing loyalty and profitability
Mobile banking provides unprecedented opportunities to build relationships with customers. It does this by delivering timely, contextual and meaningful messages in a very personal way. Mobile banking is a catalyst for developing a new level of loyalty and intimacy for FIs with their customers and members, and for building a new level of profitability. To achieve this, however, FIs need a partner that understands, shares and drives the same vision. An FI’s mobile-banking partner must have the expertise to implement and sustain a complete mobile-banking channel strategy and support its technology. But more importantly, it must understand the full potential this offering brings to FIs and consumers alike. Mobile banking truly is the next generation in banking.
Robert Usner is senior director for global market strategy and planning for Diebold Inc.