Throughout 2007 (and even into 2008-see our Jan. issue), BS&T talked about mobile banking and mobile payments until we were blue in the face. From the way things are shaping up, it doesn't look like our mobile mania will abate any time soon. Deals continue to be inked and banks are slowly starting the process of getting the word out to customers about what exactly mobile financial services are. Mind you, I speak only of the U.S. market, which is still a mobile financial services novice when compared with the rest of the world.Just this week, for example, mobile banking technology company Monitise Americas, formed in a joint venture with U.K.-based Monitise and payments services and solutions provider Metavante, announced that Metavante's NYCE Payments Network signed 10 banks to the companies' joint mobile financial services offering: California Business Bank, First National Bank of LaGrange, Gold Canyon Bank, INTRUST Bank, New Century Bank, Michigan Schools and Government Credit Union, PrimeSouth Bank, PyraMax Bank, Seaside National Bank & Trust, and Summit Bank. Some of these financial institutions might not be national household names, but the fact that so many are willing to make the leap onto this new channel is telling. Could it be a "me too" effect? Perhaps. But no one can deny that the number of banks offering some kind of mobile banking service to customers is beginning to take off.
What I found interesting is the flurry of attention by the mainstream press around Wachovia offering mobile banking via Verizon, courtesy of its partnership with Firethorn. Firethorn acts as a conduit between the banks and the cell phone networks and helps to enable mobile banking by convincing the carriers to preload the mobile banking application on their phones. The concept is that by preloading the app, adoption by consumers will be easier because there isn't much effort required on their parts to activate the service. Wachovia threw its hat in the m-banking ring in the beginning of 2007. The Verizon deal is just a way for the bank to expand its offering. After all, ease of use will be the key to mobile banking adoption in the U.S.
All this seems like great news, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. There are about 8,000 banks in America, four major cell phone carriers that jealously guard their networks and countless mobile solutions providers. We've still got a ways to go, so I for one am not expecting anything too dramatic in m-banking adoption-not in 2008, at least.
What do you think? How much longer must we wait before m-banking becomes commonplace among consumers? What will be the tipping point for m-banking adoption?