I have spent the last few weeks looking at the boom in Mobile Banking in America. I have benefited from the excellent blog by Brandon McGee and LinkedIn's ability to contact the key people quickly to bring myself up to speed having focused on the Mobile Payments boom in the Emerging Markets.
The first thing that get me is just how much the Banks have spent on Adverts that educate Consumers to the fact that they can Bank on the mobile. Chase has spent $70M so far this year and others have matched that spend.
Wells Fargo have adopted the most diverse platform offering Customers the opportunity to Bank via SMS, Browser and Java Client. Bank of America leads the field with 1M customers after just 9 months.
That's the good new, the bad news is that the best way forward at present is a Simple solution that uses SMS because users are too dumb to find the Java ap once the have installed it and the networks use of content rendering solutions means that they can't present a consistent view via a browser.
So here in the UK we have a system that few have heard of and less are using. Mobile Banking is happening in the US and Payments are now at the centre of business plans in Emerging Markets as the channel to reach the Unbanked. In the UK we have little prospect thanks to the fact that mobile data is something that Consumers stay away from because of the assumed high costs. Will be held back because of a lack of clear thought or will it be because we are not financially literate?
The CEO of ClairMail is telling Banks in the US that mobile needs to be at the centre of their strategy because of the fact that it will drive Dialogue in the same way that Tesco's drives business with the Clubcard.
Wells Fargo are developing Mobile becuae it matches the profile of its customer base, this profile sounds like First Direct in the UK but HSBC do not seem to see the need for the service.
A few reference points for you, less than 70% of Americans have a Bank Account, under 40% have a Cell Phone. Yet they see the value in Mobile Banking not for Payments but rather in fraud protection and marketing terms! Here in the UK more people have a Bank Account and a Phone and yet we have no vissible services.
Mobile Banking is an ecosystem that needs to undertake defined steps if the Mobile is to replace the Walet. Without the simple account checking ability to educate users what hope does peer to peer payments have?