Technology

The Banking Industry's Biggest Mobile Challenge? Messaging

By / May 5, 2015 (iStock/Thinkstock)

While the technology is fairly slick, a set of recent studies imply that uptake is a little less than what the industry at large would hope. The goal for the American Bankers Association might be to sell the public on the idea that online banking is both safe and useful.

In recent years, the American Bankers Association (ABA) has emphasized that mobile banking is a major growth area for its industry. The challenge, though, may be the messaging, not the technology.

That’s based on a few recent studies that have raised questions about whether that narrative is holding up so well:

A RateWatch study from Janfound that mobile-banking use by respondents increased only modestly over the past two years, though those who did use it were more likely to use it regularly.

RiskIQ reported in January that 11 percent of Android apps that were designed for mobile banking were labeled as suspicious.

A Federal Reserve report from March 2015 suggested that while mobile payments [PDF] were making progress with consumers, the broader mobile banking space was proving less successful, with “a belief that their banking needs were being met without the use of mobile banking” being the key reason many consumers haven’t tried it yet, and with consumers believing that traditional card services were easier to use.

Another View

These studies run counter to some of ABA’s own research on the matter. Last year and the year before, the association released studies indicating that mobile banking was a major growth market—but that online banking, which has existed in various forms for years, had just reached a tipping point.

“Advances in technology have enabled banks to expand customer choices and make it easier for consumers to manage their account anywhere, any time,” Nessa Feddis, ABA’s senior vice president and deputy chief counsel for consumer protection and payments, said in an August news release. “Consumers can deposit their check through a teller or interactive kiosk at a local branch, at an ATM or through an app on their mobile device. Most people use a mix of these methods.”

A Perception Problem?

So what’s ABA to make of these studies, which paint a not-so-rosy picture of the mobile banking trend? RateWatch Marketing Manager Kimberly Myszkewicz implied that a perception problem might be in play.

“The security is likely there, and the bankers are putting a lot of effort into making sure that it’s a secure process, they just need to get that information out to the consumer,” she told NBC News last week.

Nonetheless, banking companies are trying a variety of approaches to ensure their customers can bank at all times—with apps such as Capital One Wallet and the online-only bank Simple working to adapt to users who are increasingly tech-savvy.

These improved technology offerings could help ABA on a fight that might be harder to win than building the technology itself: the messaging battle.

“Security is and will continue to be a primary concern with regard to mobile banking—just as it is for all aspects of the banking business,” Feddis told NBC News.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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