Glenbrook’s Thumbnail Mobile Banking Strategy

by Scott Loftesness on September 20, 2007

in Scott Loftesness, Writings

by Scott Loftesness

We get asked a lot about our views about mobile banking and payments. Mobile payment is a whole separate kettle of fish – and not something I’ll address here. But mobile banking is here and now as most major banks are making their decisions about how to offer mobile banking this year.

To us, the apparent complexity of mobile banking boils down to a simple strategy – we’ll call it our “thumbnail” strategy. You can even talk about it with your CEO in the elevator in 25 seconds or less! We might also describe it as the “Just do it!” strategy for mobile banking.

First, recognize where the puck is going to be in terms of the capabilities of mobile phone web browsers. Apple’s iPhone is leading the charge here with its truly elegant Safari browser. Over the next 18-24 months, we’d expect similar upgrades to mobile phone browsers from other handset suppliers – they simply have to respond to Apple’s leadership. Another factor at work to make the browser experience better include the deployment of ever higher speed wireless networks.

If you’re skating to where the puck’s going to be in mobile, you’re aiming for that beautiful browser interface on a high speed network – in other words, just get moving now on developing a CSS style sheet to front end your existing online banking system and provide a slimmed down yet elegant web interface to your bank. It’s cheap to do, let’s you declare you’ve got mobile covered, and provides you with a platform from which to learn about consumer adoption of mobile banking. Oh, and please don’t call what you’re doing “WAP” – instead just call it Web 2.0!

If your bank has a focus on attracting the younger demographic – or you’re particularly concerned about serving those whose phones have only numeric keypads, you may also want to consider adding SMS-based text messaging as an interface to your existing IVR platform. Old fogies like me don’t “text”, but my kids do all the time! Remember, your IVR platform is actually your first “mobile banking” interface! You can add SMS in front of it – although you’ll need help from others to ensure full SMS coverage across carriers, etc. Not as cheap as the browser-based approach, though, and probably only worth considering if you’re pursuing that younger demographic aggressively.

It seems to us that these two elements make up the core of an initial approach to Mobile Banking 2.0 – browser-based for sure, SMS maybe. That leaves the rich application on the phone unaddressed. In thinking about that opportunity, it seems to us that the notion of having to work with the wireless carriers to get “on deck” – either directly or through a third party – is, frankly, daunting. We’d prefer to watch this evolution and be prepared to be a fast follower when a real business case for doing so has been demonstrated. That being said, an integrated, on the phone application with a rich bank-branded graphical user interface can provide a great user experience.

So, there you go – our thumbnail mobile banking strategy. Let us know what you think!

Update: As a reminder, if you’re interested in techniques for mobile web design, be sure to check out Cameron Molls electronic book by that name.

Update: Glenbrook’s Russ Jones adds his suggestions with The 10-Step Cookbook for Glenbrook’s Thumbnail Mobile Banking Strategy!

[Reminder: you can following the news about mobile banking over on our Payments News blog.]

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