"Brandon McGee, Industry Insider, Mobile Banking Guru...He is not only the real deal, a genuine industry insider, but also knows exactly what's on the minds of financial service pros as they contemplate the various mobile options." - Jim Bruene, Publisher & Founder, Online Financial Innovations

"Going Mobile. Local executive carves niche as national expert on fast-growing banking-industry technology trend" - Scott Olson, Indianapolis Business Journal (IBJ)

"Brandon McGee, the industry's unofficial ambassador for mobile banking" 

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Competition for Mobile Banking Keywords

This morning I was surfing the web to see if there were any big announcements as we prepare to wrap-up 2007. On this day my ordinary channels were fairly quiet so I decided to perform a generic Google search for anything "mobile banking" related...and this was my result.

It's likely that I've seen a similar result before, but this is the first time that it truly registered - the competition between banks and carriers is in full swing. If you notice the top two CPC ads are for Wachovia and AT&T. For the average consumer this appears to be two distinct offers; yet, we know that both are in the end the Firethorn solution.

A little more digging revealed that the term "mobile banking" is still a bargain compared to terms such as "checking account" and "home equity." This is primarily due to the revenue disparity of the products; however, it's disconcerting to think that we now have to compete with the financial resources of the largest carriers in the world in addition to the largest banks.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Mobile Banking Short Codes

Last week there were a number of newsworthy mobile banking events. I've included links to the majority of them below, but I wanted to take a moment to focus on one in particular.

Bruce Meyerson published an article in Business Week titled Why Wireless isn't Wide Open.

In short Mr. Meyerson says, "Even as the wireless industry chants a new gospel about opening mobile-phone networks to outside devices and applications, some of the biggest U.S. carriers are quietly blocking new services that would compete with their own."

The reason why I'm highlighting this article is because it's troubling on multiple levels:

1) It's concerning to think that a solution where the carriers already have a financial motivator (i.e. earning revenue per SMS) that short codes would be delayed.

2) That a large number of clients could be excluded from utilizing a mobile banking solution simply because the short code had not yet been approved.

3) Even a vendor with an existing relationship can not sail through the approval process.

If you're thinking about offering SMS banking without the assistance of a vendor I'd reconsider, and if you think you're going to design a solution that will circumvent the carriers - I'd think again.

Other Newsworthy Events:
Bank of America has a new iPhone GUI
Fundamo enters US
Clairmail Wins Red Herring 100
NACHA Announces Mobile Banking Initiative
Fidelity Adopts mFoundry Solution
Guardian Analytic Introduces FraudMAP

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Mobile Banking - Payments with Drew Sievers

Last week I had the privilege of speaking with Drew Sievers (CEO - mFoundry). We have spoken previously, yet each time I leave further impressed by his knowledge and understanding of mobile banking industry.

On this occasion we discussed a number of recent events, but the topic that most captured my attention was "mobile payments." During the call, I mentioned reading that "virtual wallets" are 18+ months from becoming practical and asked Drew to share his thoughts on the topic of wallets...payments...and the future.

Drew began by explaining that the term "mobile payments" is a really an over-arching initiative that is comprised of four different phases, and that the virtual wallet component is actually the fourth and final phase. When I asked him to clarify, here is how he described the landscape unfolding:

Phase 1) Bill Payments through the Phone. Similar to online bill pay except using the mFoundry solution to authorize payments through the mobile device.

Phase 2) Peer to Peer Payments. mFoundry will facilitate the movement of funds between mobile devices.

Phase 3) Non-Contactless POS Transactions. This scenario would involve a client receiving a 4 digit code on their mobile device which they would then hand-key into a POS terminal.

Phase 4) Contactless and NFC. Having a chip embedded into the device which is waived over a reader to authorize the payment.

Through this approach Drew was able to illustrate for me that while virtual wallets may be some time off mobile payments (i.e. phase 1) is here today.

Now, I've been heavily involved in the industry for some time and have participated in discussions about all of these topics; yet, this is the first time that I've seen the pieces of the puzzle come together. This 4-phase description helped crystallize for me how the future of "mobile payments" is likely to unfold. So, I decided to share it with you...

Monday, December 10, 2007

PayCash - Mobile Banking Vendor

Earlier today it was announced that, "Cyphermint's Chairman of the Board, Dr. Ivan Kuznetsov, has been named as Project Leader for Mobile Payments of the Information Communication Union (ICU) of Russia."

In addition, Dr. Kuznetsov was also appointed Project Leader for the Mobile Payments Project (NFC and M-payments) at the GSM Association meeting in London on November 23, 2007.

Until today I was not familiar with Cyphermint (Headquartered in Marlborough, MA) or their PayCash product, but it sounds like their chairman is well respected in the industry.

"PayCash enables consumers to conduct bill payment, mobile banking, person-to-person transfers and retail payments around the world. PayCash is currently available in 16 countries with expansion into 6 additional countries under development. PayCash Mobile is designed to enable cash loading, credit, debit, stored value cards and bank accounts for funding of mobile payments such as mobile banking, bill payment, mCommerce and other payment related services using their existing mobile device since the technology is Java, SMS and WAP compatible."

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Mobile Banking and Mobile Operators

Recently, discussion pertaining to the role of mobile operators within the mobile banking and mobile payments space has brought to light a number of critical issues that could ultimately affect the success and growth of the entire channel.

I am referring to questions such as:
1) Who "owns" the client
2) How will the operators be compensated? By whom and how much?
3) What regulatory issues will the operators face?
4) When fraud occurs who bares the financial burden?

In fact, the question of who owns the client was posed to the panelists of the Aite round-table in November. My response was basically this, "there will be a handful of operators that try to own the clients and the others will let the banks own the relationship. In the end the consumers will vote with their dollars, and I believe that it'll be readily apparent that consumers prefer to have banks safeguard their money."

Here are a few resources to read more on this topic.

1) Mobile Payments: Top 10 Issues between Banks and Mobile Operators written by Paul Ruppert on the blog Mobile Point View.

2) Mobile Banking, Payments and Commerce: What Mobile Operators Really Think published by Aite Group.

3) The Evolution from Mobile Banking to Mobile Payments by Glenbrook Partners

4) Mobile Payments - A Discussion by blogtwopointzero. This post is a little lengthy, but has a number of interesting points including this quote from Simon Cavill (CTO Mi-pay), "In the West, we have two very grown up industries, with their own rules and regulations, their own controllers and their own tight government intervention on a number of levels," he continues. "In Europe the EU has drawn a line in the sand and said to the mobile operators that they will not be banks. If a bank goes down, the government guarantees your money. If the mobile operator goes down, there are no guarantees."

Thursday, December 6, 2007

ATT Now Wide Open

It used to be that I only read the USA Today at a hotel while on a business trip. However, last month I was flipping through the paper and saw an ad promoting the mobile version of their site. Needless to say, I now check out the site 3-5 days/week and have become a fan.

This morning as I was scrolling I was very pleased to discover a story written by Leslie Cauley titled "AT&T flings cellphone network wide open." The ironic part is that exactly 7 days ago (nearly to the minute) I posted an article where in I applauded Verizon for being "open" and was critical of AT&T. So...I'd like to take this opportunity to now applaud AT&T for opening their network.

To be honest I'm glad they made the move. I'm nearing the end of my AT&T contract and want to stay with them because of the iPhone. A little hypocritical -yes- because the iPhone is closed, but cut me some slack it's the iPhone.

To tie my November 19th article about Google, Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T's wireless business stated, "Everything that Google has promised to bring to the wireless market a year from now AT&T is doing today, de la Vega says. 'We are the most open wireless company in the industry.'"

Monday, December 3, 2007

New Mobile Banking Providers

Earlier today I received information on two new mobile banking vendors.
The first is, "Pyxis Mobile, the leading provider of innovative wireless applications for the financial services industry, announced the availability of their product for Retail Banking, part of the Banking Mobility Platform (BMP), a secure infrastructure to support mobile access to traditional banking functions...This rich-client approach has been widely accepted and proven within Pyxis Mobile’s extensive customer-base of financial institutions that includes over 50% of the leading global asset managers." Full Story...

The second, Access Softek Inc., is utilizing a series of webinars to promote their Mobile Finance Manager software. The company's website states, "Access Softek, Inc. is a global software development company that for the past twenty years has earned a solid reputation for satisfying the most demanding technical needs of software companies in America, Europe, and Asia. Our clients include Microsoft, Apple, Adobe Systems, Symbol Technologies, H&R Block, Motorola and NEC."

Also note that Richard Crone of Crone Consulting will be helping to facilitate a number of the webinars.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Mobile Banking Blog Recognized by Bank Systems & Technology

I would like to take just a moment to thank Nancy Feig of Bank Systems & Technology for highlighting this blog in her article titled Customer Intimacy 2.0 (November 2007.)

An Open Verizon Helps Mobile Banking

This story has been circulating and was in this mornings USA Today.

The third paragraph summarizes the article best by stating, "Now, at last, cracks are appearing in the bizarre, sealed-off market for U.S. cellphone users. Verizon, the nation's No.2 cell network and until now an adamant defender of the 'walled garden' approach, said Tuesday that it would knock down those walls for its customers."

I applaud Verizon and their leadership in the mobile space. The story states that they are currently the No.2 cell network, but maybe we'll start to see the market vote with their dollars and boost them into the No. 1 spot.

It is this type of forward thinking that will help the entire mobile landscape (mobile banking and payments included) to reach its fullest potential. If anyone out there has a contact at Verizon I would enjoy speaking with them more about their decision.Full Story...

Mobile Banking Vendor - Red Herring Finalist

ClairMail Selected as Finalist for the ''Red Herring 100 Global'' Awards
"Red Herring Magazine announced today that ClairMail, Inc., the leader in 2-way mobile phone-based customer interaction, has been short listed for the Red Herring 100 Global 2007 Awards...ClairMail has made the final group because of its outstanding achievements, and Red Herring Magazine is honored to announce it is one of the most promising technology firms in the world." Full Story...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Mobile Banking Updates -Synovus and Monitise

Elizabeth “Lee Lee” James of Synovus has been selected to receive the “2007 Innovator Award” from American Banker. Synovus announced the selection of Firethorn as their mobile banking provider in October of 2006. Full Story...

Monitise Americas Launches Mobile Financial Services
Initial launch partners include Harvard Employees Credit Union, North Jersey Community Bank, Sutton Bank and Sutton Bank’s Greenlink Payment division. In common with Monitise Americas model of delivering mobile financial services to financial institutions using their existing payments processor relationships, its initial launch partners will use their connections to the NYCE Payments Network in order to deliver the new service to their customers. Full Story...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Mobile Banking Consumer Awareness

Each week that passes reveals that mobile banking truly is becoming a phenomenon. A year ago I had to actively search for news, but this morning I was exposed to multiple messages about mobile banking while simply sitting at the breakfast table enjoying a cup of coffee.

The first message was a new Bank of America television commercial in support of their "Bank the way you live" campaign. The spot was aired during a commercial break of NBC's Today show and integrated well with their new microsite. I tried to locate the commercial on Bank of America's website and YouTube, but was not able to find a copy - my apologies.

The next message was literally seconds later when I turned the page of the Indianapolis Star and found an article titled "A buy and cell proposition." The article was written by Dan Fost of USA Today and states, "Instead of reaching for your wallet in the next few years, you'll be able to pull out your cell phone and wave it over a scanner to make a payment." The article also does a very nice job of handling the topic of security with quotes from Allen Weinberg of Glenbrook Partners stating, "It's relatively easy to make cell phones very secure devices...as good as or better than what you do with an ATM or at-home banking." Full story.

On a similar note, the touch phone market is beginning to crowd but with varying degrees of success. Peter Svensson of the associated press says that the HTC Touch handset, "is the worst phone I've tried in the last few years." Full Story.

A few pages later Verizon is now offering the LG Voyager at $299 with a 2 year commitment.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Mobile Banking and Google a Carrier?

The telecommunications industry has always appeared very complex and daunting; however, with mobile banking obviously dependent upon the technology I am working to gain a better understanding of how the competitive market may evolve in the coming years.

With that in mind, last week I read an article that suggests we may be on the cusp of a monumental shift in the industry. The article titled Hello, Ma Google was written by Kevin Maney in the October issue of Conde Nast Portfolio. I'll reiterate that it was published in October which means that it likely written in August or September - this is crucial later in the article.

I highly recommend reading the full article, but here are two quotes that summarize the general concept, "Google could be your phone company. This possibility begins with the broadcast signals that once carried hokey sitcoms (Green Acres! The Munsters!) to TV rabbit ears. Those signals are about to become useless as sets go digital and the government prepares to auction off the old analog UHF spectrum in January. The odds-on favorite to win is Google, which has conditionally offered to meet the $4.6 billion opening bid."

The article continues on to say, "The next step is phones that work on any wireless network, the way any pot works on any stove. Google is pushing to have these so-called open phones work on the UHF spectrum, which would help end the practice of binding phones to certain networks and handcuffing customers to contracts. In other words, if the new spectrum opens the door for unlocked phones, then wireless companies could be forced to change the way they manipulate consumers and handset makers."

Do you recall that I said the article was written in August and published in October? Well...now layer in Google's November 5th announcement of the Open Handset Alliance and the Android platform. The homepage for the alliance states, "Together we have developed Android™, the first complete, open, and free mobile platform. We are committed to commercially deploy handsets and services using the Android Platform in the second half of 2008."

The second half of 2008 - that's an aggressive goal! If only they could only find a way to motivate the developers...

November 12, 2007: Google Announces $10 Million Android Developer Challenge

Well, there are obviously a number of hurdles to overcome, but if Google is able to accomplish their goal this could be revolutionary (i.e. lets all agree not to use the the phrase "the tipping point" any longer). This could mean exponential growth in the adoption and usage of the mobile internet and mobile data, which in turn could lead to exponential growth in the use of all mobile applications.

So here are my questions:
* How will the carriers respond?
* What does this mean for mobile banking?
* Does this affect the browser vs. downloadable debate?
* How will this affect the relationships between banks and carriers?
* Would this change the strategic direction of mobile banking vendors?

At this point it's very premature to try and answer these questions, but I'd welcome your initial thoughts? Also, what other questions should we be trying to answer?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Mobile Banking, Qualcomm & Open Handset Alliance

Much like everyone else in the industry I was shocked by this mornings news that Qualcomm had acquired Firethorn, but within a short period time I was back in my groove and my day proceeded as usual. Yet, periodically my mind kept going back to the story and I couldn't figure out why.

Then on the drive home it hit me. This is not the first time Qualcomm has been in the news recently. It was just over a week ago that Qualcomm was listed as a member of the new Open Handset Alliance spear-headed by the team at Google.


Qualcomm to Acquire Mobile Banking Leader Firethorn

"SAN DIEGO, Nov. 14 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Qualcomm Incorporated , a leading developer and innovator of Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) and other advanced wireless technologies, today announced it has agreed to acquire Atlanta-based Firethorn Holdings, LLC, an industry-leading mobile banking enabler. The addition of Firethorn's expertise in the financial industry and key relationships with wireless operators, financial institutions and payment processors supports Qualcomm's broader strategy to enable end-to-end wireless services that enhance the mobile experience and to deliver compelling applications that drive increased consumer adoption of new mobile data services. Qualcomm will pay approximately $210 million in cash for Firethorn. Completion of the acquisition, which is subject to certain closing conditions, is expected within 30 days. Click to read the full article.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Bank of America Drives a Half-Million Customers to Web-Based Mobile Banking

The other day I received some interesting news. The scoop is that TowerGroup has just released a new report analyzing the Bank of America mobile banking solution. As a reminder BofA is utilizing a browser-based solution and completed the rollout on August 24th of this year.

Interesting note, if you divide the 500,000 mobile banking users by their roughly 20 million online clients we know that their penetration rate is roughly 2.5% of their online banking customer base.

PS - Please do not misunderstand, I'm not advocating that online banking clients should be the sole target market, and I'm certain that this is not the BofA strategic plan. I'm simply trying to frame their rate of adoption based upon existing data.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Aite - Mobile Banking Round-table Discussion

Mustafa Patni and Michael Lindsey

Left to Right: Joram, Matt, Nick, Brandon, and Mustafa

Just a few short hours ago I returned from New York where I attended a round-table discussion on mobile banking. Let me first thank the entire team at Aite. In two short hours we covered a variety of topics including:

* Is the term mobile banking tainted from the failed attempt in 2001?
* Who will ultimately own the clients - banks or carriers?
* What will be the role of mobile banking for the un-banked or under-banked?
* Does mobile banking have a business purpose or is it just keeping up with the Jones's?
* What kind of fraud or security attacks can we expect and how do we handle them?
* Where will mobile banking take us by 2010? Will mobile payments be a factor?

Overall, the discussion was outstanding and there was a strong turn-out with over 80 people in attendance representing banks, vendors, trade publications and press. I'd also like to take a minute to thank my fellow panelists:

* Nick Holland - Aite Group
* Mustafa Patni - Washington Mutual
* Joram Borenstein - RSA
* Michael Lindsey - Bancorp South
* Matt Dill - Western Union

If you are looking for a fresh opinion from an industry expert these five are as sharp as they come.

Now, this obviously does not summarize the full content and depth of the morning, but a few "big picture" notes would be:
* We (banks and carriers) will not decide who owns the client. The market will evolve and they will dictate to us who's in control by voting with their dollars.
* Do not ignore the un-banked and under-banked. They represent a very large target segment with big potential.
* Mobile banking does have inherent value. By adding another service to the relationship the client is less likely to defect.
* As always security is paramount. The keys will be customer education and a "mobile guarantee"
* Mobile payments will be a thriving and profitable industry but be patient.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Proliferation of Mobility PR and Marketing

The other day I received my AT&T mobility magazine and was excited to see the resources that they are utilizing to create awareness about downloadable applications. The two images below are pages 22 and 23 of the magazine, and I feel that they do a decent job communicating to customers that a mobile device can be much more than just a phone. Specifically they say, "Turn your phone into a personal assistant, a problem solver, an entertainment hub - and more!"

In fact, it motivated me to visit www.att.com/mediamall for the first time and I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised at the content. I'm not sure why, but for some reason I was under the impression that they only offered Gen Y ring tones and games. However, after visiting the site I realized they they have a little something for everyone. For example there were applications for:
* Rachael Ray Recipes on the Run
* Fox Sports Mobile Pro
* The Weather Channel
* MapQuest Mobile
* MySpace Mobile

Click here or on the image below to see all of their offerings.

On a similar note - I discovered a link to this CBS Early Show video clip on the Payments News site.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Mobile Banking Roundtable and Google Phone

If your schedule permits, there's an interesting roundtable discussion that I'll be participating in next week. The event is on Thursday November 8th in New York and is sponsored by Aite. The panel will include representatives from Washington Mutual, Bancorp South, Western Union, and RSA.

On a separate note, it sounds like we're getting closer to the release of the Google phone. Will the iPhone have its first true competition? Click to read the full story.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Chase Ahead of Mobile Marketing Curve

It's official - Chase has launched a revolutionary mobile marketing initiative. To view a copy of the full promotion email click here.

To learn more about the program, FAQs, or view participating merchants - click here.

Wow! I would love to learn more about this program. Could it be that Chase has actually figured out a way to boost their card purchase volume while simultaneously generating a new stream of revenue?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Mobile Payments & Mobile Banking

As we have all learned by now it is not easy to develop a business case for mobile banking. Predominantly, this is due to the fact that it’s not free to develop the service; yet, clients expect to receive it for free since they can access online banking via their personal computer at no charge.

The more you read the more you discover that many experts feel that the revenue potential exists within the realm of mobile payments. Therefore, I have begun to immerse myself in learning about the nuances of the space, and you will notice that I have begun to develop a more robust listing of the mobile payment vendors along the right-hand column.

Additionally, here are a few snippets of data that I have uncovered so far:
* Meijer reports a 44% monthly sales left for customers paying with contactless cards
* BP will start accepting PayPass at 3,000 U.S. locations
* USA Technologies is currently installing contactless payment on 7,500 additional vending machines for Coca Cola Enterprises.
* The total payments market in the U.S. is estimated to be over $7 trillion
* One forecast predicts that mobile phone-based contactless payments will account for over $36 billion of worldwide consumer spending by 2011
* The case for mobile transactions has been well proven by recent pilots. In a country such as Kenya there are 400 bank branches, 600 ATMs and 10 million mobile phones.
* In heavily wired Korea, 70% of all digital content -- valued at more than $1 billion last year -- is charged directly to cellphone bills instead of traditional credit cards, the company says.
* There are 6 million places where you can use your credit card, 45,000 (contactless acceptance locations)
* Pilots have been announced for:
Wells Fargo & Visa
Discover Financial & Motorola
Citi, Mastercard AT&T, and Nokia
Cellular South, Kyocera, and VIVOTech
Citi & Obopay
First Data & mFoundry
Verizon & Obopay

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Mobile Banking and Sun Microsystems

Last week I had the pleasure of discussing the future of mobile banking with two executives from Sun Microsystems Carl Morath (Marketing Manager – Worldwide Financial Services) and Donna Rubin (Director of Marketing – Worldwide Financial Services).

Prior to the call I knew that Sun was the creator of Java technology; however, did you also know that the SIM chip in your cell phone is likely a Java Chip? In fact, an online search found that, “there are more than a billion Java-enabled phones in operation, and 70 percent to 80 percent of the GSM phones are also equipped with Java (February 2006).” – Blueboard.com

As we discussed the future of mobile banking Mr. Morath felt that the market would evolve in this fashion.
1. SMS - “It’s a given”
2. Browser - WAP 2.0 is better but not great. There will not be huge take-up.
3. Downloadable – More complex but there will be good take-up.

The most interesting aspect of the discussion though revolved around the projects that Sun has in development to improve the mobile banking experience. Sun has decided to focus their resources on two primary initiatives.

First, Sun does not feel that the OFX and ATM interfaces currently utilized by downloadable applications provide adequate support. To improve upon this model Sun is working to wrap a new interface around this existing technology. The new interface will build upon the bank’s existing transaction sets; yet, will create a new extensible web service. This basically means that we will have one interface that is able to incorporate and integrate all three mobile banking solutions (SMS, Browser, Downloadable).

Secondly, Sun is working to figure out how to provision a credit card in a cell phone. Understandably, this has been a challenge from a security aspect, because it requires a delicate balance of restricting bank information from carriers and carrier information from banks. Fortunately, Sun is well versed in dealing with both players. Over the years they have formed strong relationships with the carriers and as of 2004 provided internet banking technology to 85% of the banks in the market.

While Sun’s participation is not as transparent as the traditional mobile banking vendor they are a critical player, and will be instrumental in shaping the future of the mobile banking landscape.

To learn more about Sun’s success stories - click here.

To visit the blogs managed by Sun employees - click here.

Monday, October 22, 2007

IBC Bank and mFoundry - Mobile Banking

LAREDO, Texas & SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Mobile banking leader mFoundry today announced the selection of mFoundry’s Spotlight financial platform by IBC Bank, the Laredo-based flagship bank of International Bancshares Corporation (NASDAQ: IBOC), one of the largest bank holding companies in Texas. IBC will leverage mFoundry’s Spotlight Mobile Banking solution to provide IBC’s customers with real-time, on-demand access to their IBC checking, savings and credit card accounts. Click to read the full press release.

Wells Fargo Launches Mobile Text Banking

First Major Financial Services Company to Offer Consumer and Small Business Customers Both Browser- and Text-Based Account Access via Mobile Devices

SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE:WFC) today announced another component of its Wells Fargo MobileSM service: text banking. This addition makes Wells Fargo the first major financial services company in the country to offer its consumer and small business customers both browser- and text-based account access via their mobile devices. Click to read the full press release.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Discussion about Mobile Banking Security at a Feverish Pitch

With the excitement surrounding mobile banking now in full swing it should come as no surprise that the topic of security is also reaching a feverish pitch. In fact, in the world of finance one of the early warming signs of a potentially successful service is regulatory involvement and mobile banking is no different.

I first wrote about security in an article titled “Mobile Banking & Security.” Later I followed up with an article titled Mobile Banking Security and AntiVirus Protection on the Mobile Money and Banking website.

However, within the last week the information has seemed to pick up dramatically. Here is a sampling of the highlights:
Mobile Banking Security: The Black Cloud Attached to the Silver Lining
Reserve Bank of India Studies Mobile Banking
Financial Sector Technology Vision document (2008-2010)
Mobile Banking. Mixing Ubiquity With Security.
The greatest weakness of mobile banking security is the mobile banking users themselves?
Panda Security launches antifraud service for mobile banking.
Mobile-Banking Security Checklist Published by Green Armor Solutions.
Mobile Banking Fraud!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Western Union and Mobile Transfers

Today there was an article by Paul Taylor on the MSNBC website titled "Western Union to Transfer Money by Cell."

The key take away is that Western Union will launch a mobile money transfer service in the second quarter of 2008. The article further explains that, "Once connected to the Western Union service, mobile operators will be able to use their own "mobile wallet"' software to enable person-to-person mobile money transfers over Western Union's cross-border remittance network."

Initially I began to think, "it will be a real challenge for Western Union to make the leap in to the mobile arena." However, the reality is that they already have the infrastructure in place and according to the article, "processed some 17 per cent of the world's remittance volume in 2006."

You'll notice that there was no mention of a financial institution, but the operators will still be forced to revenue share with Western Union.

This will be an interesting one to keep an eye on. Fortunately, the operators involved (MTN, Orange, Orascom, Smart, Telenor and VimpelCom) do not include any of the "Big 5" from the U.S.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Mobile Banking or Cell Phone Banking

The other day I was riding in the elevator when a co-worker asked, "what's your new role?" My now standard response is, "Mobile banking...(then I pause and wait for a confused look on their face and follow with)...it's basically online banking on a cell phone."

That's when it occurred to me - why is it called Mobile Banking. Why isn't it called cell phone banking?

Now, I know that technically there are smart phones, cell phones, PDA's and pocket PC's which are all (Mobile Devices) but truthfully the only people that really use those terms are the handset manufacturers. I would never leave someone a voicemail and say - call me on my mobile. Nor would I say - call me on my smart phone.

So my questions are:
* Where did the term "Mobile Banking" come from and is it appropriate for the U.S.?
* Could this unfamiliar term be negatively affecting adoption?

I have not been able to confirm my hunch, but I'm guessing that the source of the phrase comes from overseas where people use the generic term "mobile" to refer to the same device that we call our "cell phone."


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mobile Banking Announcement: Firethorn and Verizon

I know this is slightly dated (i.e. a full day old) but I purposefully didn't post it on my site because I posted it to the Mobile Money & Banking site. However, I want to make sure that Firethorn receives equal attention; plus, it occured to me that some people may not realize that I guest blog for MM&B. To read a full listing of my MM&B articles - click here.


Leading wireless carrier plans to offer pre-loaded mobile banking application, support marketing efforts

BASKING RIDGE, N.J. and ATLANTA - October 15, 2007 – Mobile banking and payments enabler Firethorn Holdings, LLC (www.firethornmobile.com) and Verizon Wireless, the nation’s leading wireless company with the nation’s most reliable wireless voice and data network, announced today a new strategic relationship that will provide Verizon Wireless customers with the ability to easily interact with their financial institutions using Firethorn’s mobile financial services application.

Click to read the full press release.

Mobile Banking Announcement: BBT, Clairmail, and mFoundry

Winston-Salem-based BB&T Corporation (NYSE: BB&T - News) today said it has partnered with two California-based mobile banking and payment providers to offer one of the industry's most comprehensive mobile banking services.

BB&T's three-phase rollout of the new service is set to begin next month and is expected to be completed in the first quarter when a full menu of mobile banking options will be available to BB&T clients. The services include two-way mobile messaging, mobile Web access and mobile banking applications

BB&T is the first customer of a newly-formed partnership between ClairMail Inc. of Novato, Calif., and mFoundry of Sausalito, Calif.

Click to read the full press release.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Recommendation for Mobile Banking Vendors & An Update on Opera Browsers

I have an update to an article that I wrote last month titled "Opera Mini Browser & Mobile Banking." I stand behind my opinion that Opera Mini is a very powerful mobile browser, and my favorite for general web browsing. However, I have since learned that it is not conducive to mobile banking.

In fact, I received the following information from a reader:

"...one important thing to note is that Opera Mini provides inadequate security for Mobile Banking - the technology that Opera Mini uses results in the data being decrypted on the Opera server, very similar to the old "WAP gap" problem.

This is clearly documented on the Opera web site:


Is there any end-to-end security between my handset and for example paypal.com or my bank?

No. Opera Mini uses a transcoder server to translate HTML/CSS/JavaScript into a more compact format. It will also shrink any images to fit the screen of your handset. This translation step makes Opera Mini fast, small, and also very cheap to use. To be able to do this translation, the Opera Mini server needs to have access to the unencrypted version of the Web page. Therefore no end-to-end encryption between the client and the remote Web server is possible. If you need full end-to-end encryption, you should use a full Web browser such as Opera for Mobile.

Can Opera Software see my passwords and credit card numbers in clear text? What is the encryption good for then?

The encryption is introduced to protect the communication from any third party between the client (the browser on your handset) and the Opera Mini transcoder server. If you do not trust Opera Software, make sure you do not use our application to enter any kind of sensitive information."

Naturally my question back to the reader was
, "Am I reading correctly then that Opera for Mobile is secure? Are there any other free, downloadable browsers that do provide end-to-end security?"

And the response -

"Opera Mobile is available for Windows Mobile and Symbian 60 phones. It is not free however - the cost is $24 after a 30 day free trial.


You can find a list of Symbian 60 phones here - make sure to search for the ones that are available in North America (note that the RAZR is not on this list):

I am not aware of any free downloadable browsers that provide true end-to-end security."

To bring this full circle -

It has become clear to me over the last 6 months that a significant number of bankers and research companies believe that a 3 channel offering (SMS, Browser-based, Downloadable) is the optimal solution. Yet, we know that many of the mobile browsers pre-loaded on phones are inadequate. Therefore, my recommendation is this. If you are a vendor currently offering a downloadable application, please find a way to incorporate a top-notch web browser into the download.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Video Interviews by Christophe Langlois

Earlier today Christophe Langlois (Founder of Visible-Banking.com) published a video interview that he and I conducted in New York after the Finovate 2007 conference hosted by Jim Bruene (Editor - Online Banking Report.)

If you get a chance please take a look, but more importantly be sure to check out all of the other videos that he recorded the very same day.

Brandon McGee, VP & Senior Product Manager at Huntington Bank

Andrew Taylor, CTO at Jwaala

Murali Subbarao, Founder & CEO of Billeo

Aaron Patzer, Founder & CEO of Mint.com

Chris Larsen, Founder & CEO of Prosper

Peter Hazlehurt, SVP Product Management at Yodlee

Patrick Gannon, SVP Lending at Lending Club

Bob Homer, VP Product Management at CheckFree

Christophe Langlois is truly an innovative thinker when it comes to social networking and online innovation. If you do not check his blog daily you are probably missing out.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Mobile Banking - Product Marketing

I have recently noticed that there’s subject that has not received adequate attention – product marketing. To date everyone in the industry has been trying to figure out how to design the perfect solution. The discussions all revolve around SMS vs. Browser-Based vs. Rich UX (Downloadable); however, we must keep in mind that this is not a “build it and they will come” product. Yes - there are a handful or early adopters that will seek out the product, but a far greater number of clients will need to be actively engaged.

To compound the problem, marketing requires money and as we all know the business case for mobile banking is already a little fuzzy. For more on this topic I’d recommend reading Mobile Banking: Where's the Business Case? by Karen Epper Hoffman.

So, the question is, “how do you market mobile banking with limited funds?” The answer is – with a fully integrated guerilla campaign. Here are a few ideas to jump-start your right-brain creative juices.

1) Begin with internal marketing. The other day I read the article Mobile Banking – Driving Adoption by Julie Ask and I was reminded how critical the front line employees are in the adoption of a new product or service. So, my advice is to start with internal marketing. Write an article for the intranet, run an internal promotion to get employees using the service, offer to speak and give a demo at regional sales meetings. The list of possibilities is nearly endless and very inexpensive.
* Note: mobile banking will also facilitate a “stickier” client so be sure to work with retail management to ensure employees are paid incentive compensation for each client they enroll.

2) In branch marketing. I would begin with posters, tent cards, and a stack of simple “take-ones” at each teller station. This is extremely cost effective because once the printer is running the incremental cost is fairly negligible. Plus, if you were successful with your internal marketing program (see above) the tellers are now mobile evangelists capable of answering any questions the clients may have. Finally, this will also help you avoid the truly expense components of marketing such as postage and the expenses related to newspaper, radio and television advertising.

3) Take your message to the homepage. Create a banner image promoting the benefits of mobile banking for your homepage with an associated “landing page” including a strong “enroll now” call to action. Within the last few years many banks have begun to realize the importance of web analytics; and as such, they have developed a keen appreciation for how valuable the marketing areas of their homepage can be.

4) Piggy-back on existing marketing initiatives. If you have a friend in the marketing department this can be a very simple and free solution. Simply add a “snipe” to the corner of a newspaper ad, a line to the bottom of a direct mail piece, or a link to an existing email campaign. Again the possibilities are endless and as long as the message is simple and non-intrusive you will likely not receive much resistance.

For more ideas I’d recommend conducting a brain-storming session with the marketing team or reading Jay Conrad Levinson’s book - Guerilla Marketing.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

NYCE to Provide Mobile Banking and Payments Services Powered by Monitise Americas

"NYCE Payments Network today announced it will offer mobile banking and payments services to financial institutions — the first commercially available service from a U.S. debit card payments network." Read the full press release.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Mobile Banking Updates - Week of Oct 1

I apologize for having missed a few days but I was in New York attending the Finovate 2007 conference. If you haven't had an opportunity to hear much about the event you can read my notes at the Mobile Money and Banking site. I hate to belabor the point, but if you were not able to attend please make sure that it's on your calendar for next year. Over the course of a day I was able to meet with a number of vendors including: mFoundry, Clairmail, M-Com, SRM Technologies, Sybase, Firethorn, and YellowPepper. I met fellow bankers from Citi, JP Morgan Chase, Capital One, ABSA, and ECCU. Plus, had the pleasure of spending time with a number of interesting bloggers including: Christophe Langlois, Paul Ruppert, Jim Bruene, and William Azaroff.

But now it's back to business. Here's the news:

Firethorn and CheckFree to Provide Arvest Bank Group Mobile Banking and Payments

Google Is Really, Really Serious About The Mobile Ad Market

Cell Phones Double As Electronic Wallets

CPNI Extends Access to Mobile Purchases

Fronde Anywhere to reach world through LogicaCMG

S1 Enterprise Announces Mobile Banking Solution

Thursday, September 27, 2007

ATT Launches New Mobile Banking Page

Here is a piece of the new page just launched by ATT promoting mobile banking.

Also, please take note of the institutions listed below the fold. The branding value that these institutions are receiving is tremendous!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mobile Banking Landscape - Turkey

This week I received information about two mobile banking announcements in Turkey, and this is a very big deal for their country. To help illustrate, picture Bank of America and Chase announcing their mobile solutions within hours of each other.

In one corner you have IsBank ($55 Billion in assets) parterning with Pozitron. Click for Full Story

In the other corner you have GarantiBank ($50 Billion in assets) partnering with Volantis. Click for Full Story