"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" 

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Designing the Mobile User Experience

I have been researching the mobile banking environment for the some time now, and have reached a point where many of the articles, papers, and posts have begun to sound very similar. In fact, many even contain the same quotes.

So, I decided to branch out and search for books on the topic. My initial results were disappointing because many of the titles were published years ago, but then I stumbled across "Designing the Mobile User Experience" by Barbara Ballard - Copyright 2007.

Now, I will admit that it's a little pricier than the new tell-all book "written" by the Hollywood starlet of the week. However, it's also a significantly better value than some of the research white papers that sell for 15-20 times as much.

My favorite part of the book is the opening paragraph which reads, "A mobile phone is a Swiss Army knife. It is not a chef's knife or a buck knife. We keep wanting new features on the phone, like texting, voice memos, browsing, a camera, music, and television, because we would like these things in our pocket and the phone is already there. And like a Swiss Army knife, the user experience of each of the features leaves quite a bit to be desired. A Swiss Army knife will not deliver the quality of cut a chef's knife will, nor will it fit in the hand quite as well as a good pocket knife. Designing applications or web sites for mobile phones is in many ways the same as designing the best possible screwdriver or fishing rod for a Swiss army knife."
This is a great analogy and something that we must keep in mind while developing our mobile banking solutions. Please note: this book is focused on the mobile experience in general. It is not focused specifically on the financial industry.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Clairmail Releases Triple Play of Interface Types

"Banks also need to diversify the mobile banking user interfaces they offer their customers to successfully attract the most users,” said Joseph Salesky, CEO of ClairMail. “ClairMail System Release 3 enables banks to provide their customers with a comprehensive 2-way mobile banking and payments solution no matter their phone type or preferred communication method.”

“One size does not fit all when it comes to mobile banking,” said James Van Dyke, Founder and President of Javelin Research. “As mobile banking hits the mainstream, banks need to be aware of the multiple mobile banking modes preferred by their customers and offer a comprehensive choice of user interfaces in order to gain the most traction with their offering."

Click to read the full press release.

A Google Phone?

Maybe I have been too consumed by the iPhone craze, but this is the first time that I'm seeing articles and reading reports about a new handheld device that has been rumored for months.

The Google Phone?

Unfortunately, much like Big Foot or the Lockness Monster there seems to be some mystery surrounding the device. Here are two "reported" images of what the device looks like.

Here are a few links to learn more.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

HSBC and SMS Banking

I have recently learned that HSBC has now launched an SMS based mobile banking solution for their business clients. To read more click here.

Also, sources tell me that this is the first of many pending announcements where banks that have already launched one type of mobile banking solution will be following up with a secondary offering. In order to keep an updated record of which institutions have implemented which solutions I have developed this Top 10 tracking page. Each time a new announcement is made I will update this page with the most current information. Please be sure to add this page to your favorites and check back frequently.

Friday, August 24, 2007

WIG, SMS, User-Interface (Part II)

If you haven't had a chance to read Part I, please scroll down to the post from Tuesday 8/21.

We left off where I had just sent an email to our new friend Christo Vrey in South Africa asking for any information that he could provide about WIG and the technology used for the solution.

Here's his response:

"Brandon, some short notes on WIG/STK for further research. Some points Another name for WIG is STK (Sim tool kit) Belgium's Banxafe has a STK application for banking and payments Most countries in Africa use this technology Fundamo and Cell pay who have clients worldwide offers banking via STK (WIG) There are European countries that offer banking and prepaid services via WIG Some examples: Tatra Bank EBanka Banxafe MTN Banking (In Africa) Standard Bank In terms of the operator...they need to have the capability in place to deliver secure SMS's i.e. a WIG (Wireless Internet Gateway). That is all they do. Everything else is done by the bank. That is the interface, integration, pricing etc. Pretty much the same model as Internet Banking where the clients simply logon to the carrier i.e. www ..the rest done by the bank."

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Chase Mobile to Launch in 2007

If you've had the chance to read my post titled "Mobile Banking Deployments at the Top-10 U.S. Banks" you know that I'm keeping a close eye on the solutions launched by the countries largest banks. So, it should come as no surprise that I get a little excited when I hear news about Chase (the only bank in the top 5 that's still uncommitted).

Here's the scoop -

This quote was taken verbatim from a recent email distributed by JP Morgan Chase.
"You are receiving this message because you previously accepted our Online Services Agreement and Paperless Statements e-Sign Disclosure. As a result of recent updates to our paperless enrollment process and the upcoming addition of our new Chase Mobile service, we have updated the terms and conditions for both services. We revised the section on Alerts to include terms for the Chase Mobile service we're launching this year (stay tuned - we'll be back in touch when it's available). These revisions let you know that: Chase won't charge any fees for Chase Mobile, but that you are responsible for standard text messaging or other fees from your phone company; we won't send marketing messages through the Chase Mobile service; and Chase Mobile is only available to customers who have a consumer deposit or credit card account with us."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

WIG - SMS and User Interface Combined

On Monday I wrote a post for Mobile Money & Banking titled “Deciphering Mobile Banking Terminology.” If you have not had a chance to read it, or the other posts that I’ve written for that site, you can access them here.

The next day I received an email from Christo Vrey, General Manager – Digital Channels, for ABSA. In the email, Christo mentioned that I had overlooked a term that is frequently used for SMS technology in South Africa – WIG.

The unfortunate part of the story is that I didn’t accidentally overlook the term. The truth is that I didn’t even know it existed. So, I picked up the phone and started making calls to see who could fill me in, but it didn’t take long to figure out that I wasn’t alone - no one else had heard of WIG either.

Now, typically it’s not a big deal to discover an obscure technology used half way around the world, but WIG is different. It’s an intriguing concept, because it seems to marry together two different channels to create a very unique offering. On the front-end you have a client-friendly interface, which some will argue is the missing component of traditional SMS mobile banking. Then, on the back-end you have the ubiquity of SMS, which some will argue is the missing component of Rich UX applications.

So I kept searching for information but I couldn’t help but wonder, “why haven’t I heard of this solution before now?”

Then, one of my contacts came through. He had made some calls to his engineers overseas and learned that the offering implemented at ABSA is actually not offered by a mobile banking vendor. In fact, it’s not even offered in the United States. It turns out that the solution that has been developed and launched by a carrier in South Africa!

I promise that’s not the end of the story, but that’s all the information that I have been able to gather to this point. I’ve sent an email to our new friend in South Africa with the hope of learning more, but currently it’s 2:00 a.m. tomorrow morning (Wednesday) in Johannesburg, Africa.

Stay tuned for more…

Click here to read more about WIG Cell Phone Banking at ABSA

Finovate 2007

Late yesterday Mobile Banking & Money announced that they will host their first conference dedicated to the mobile banking channel on October 2nd - Finovate 2007.

The location - New York City

But this is not your ordinary conference. According to MM&B, "Following the popular format pioneered by DEMO, FINOVATE 2007 will provide companies with a mere seven minutes to “wow!” an audience of 200 leading executives, investors, analysts, members of the press and bloggers with actual demonstrations of their latest & greatest products and services (no powerpoint allowed!)."

NO POWERPOINT!! All Hail Finovate 2007!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Learn about Mobilearth and Eisenhower Bank

In June I participated in a webinar conducted by Foreword Financial entitled "Mobile Financial Services: Catch the Wave." During the presentation I remember Tom Llewellyn, EVP/CIO of Broadway Bank speak very highly of a mobile banking vendor that I was not familiar with – Mobilearth.

Then, yesterday I had the pleasure speaking with Graeme Cox and Tia Lee (Mobilearth) via a WebEx presentation, and learned a little more about their company and mobile offering. Mobilearth, based in Vancouver, Canada, was established in 2004 and is primarily focused on the browser-based mobile banking solution. Mobilearth became much more visible last year when Eisenhower Bank (a division of Broadway Bank based in San Antonio Texas) announced that they would be deploying the Mobilearth solution to their clientele which is predominately comprised of military personnel.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Aloha - Bank of Hawaii

Let me take just a moment to apologize to Bank of Hawaii and mShift for a post that I wrote on 8/13. I stated that Bank of Hawaii had launched their mobile solution (which is true) but also wrote that, "the bad news is that it doesn't seem to be working." As it turns out I was wrong. The problem was "user error" because I was not entering the url correctly. The ironic part is that I remember verifing the url at least half a dozen times, but being a creature of habit, I was typing (http://www.mobile.boh.com/ - which returns a503 error code) instead of the actual url of (http://mobile.boh.com/).

That said, I will hold to my comment that, "the mobile solution, much like online banking, is a very fickle platform." For years I've known that the "www" is not necessary, but out of shear habit I continue to enter it each and every time I surf the net.

The good news is that the Bank of Hawaii site is live and looks great. Plus, as Al Landon (Chairman and CEO) states, "Bank of Hawaii was the first to offer online banking in Hawaii. Now we're pleased to be the first in the state to introduce mobile banking for our customers."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

New Offering - Bank of America and Verizon

Late yesterday afternoon Bank of America and Verizon announced that customers will now be able to access their accounts much more quickly utilizing Verizon's Web 2.0 service. For access to the service Verizon will charge $5.00/month + airtime, or you can sign up for the V CAST VPak at a cost of $15/month and incur no additional airtime charges. Click here to read the most comprehensive article that I have found so far.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

New Entrants to the Mobile Foray

If you thought it was difficult to select a mobile banking vendor before, hold on, because the options are growing exponentially. Case in point, just this week two formidable companies announced the release of their mobile banking solution for the U.S. Specifically, I am referring to:

The Yodlee product integrates multiple channels by utilizing both browser and SMS technology. This is a trend that we will most likely see repeated, because as Peter Hazlehurst (Yodlee - SVP of Product Development) states, “It’s clear that mobile banking strategies need to incorporate at least two key elements: 1) ubiquity of access via multiple channels and 2) relevant, personal content that delivers what consumers really need when they’re on the go.”

Sybase has also announced that their mobile banking solution will be available to financial institutions in the U.S. This development comes shortly after they commissioned a survey, which was administered by Loudhouse Research, in which they found that, “66 percent of mobile subscribers in the Americas are interested in services that allow them to check bank account balances via their mobile device.”

Monday, August 6, 2007

UnWired Nation - The Voice of Mobile

The other day I read an article by Nancy Gohring on pcworld.com that discussed, UnWired Nation, a new entrant in to the mobile arena. The CEO Indraj Grill says, "he's found a way to get around the challenges involved in offering a data service to mobile phone customers: use voice instead."

I know it's early, but we had better keep an eye on the voice solution. We might be looking at yet another channel to integrate. (SMS, WAP, Rich UX, Voice??)

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The WAP Solution

Due to the Wells Fargo product launch, there have recently been a tremendous number of articles written about the WAP solution. Most of us know the standard pro’s and con’s:

Pro’s –
* Relatively inexpensive
* Quick to implement
* Perception of technologically advanced
(i.e. for having a live mobile offering)

Con’s –
Dependent upon phone browser
Difficulty in consistent rendering to thousands of different handsets

However, there is potentially another negative aspect that is not as well known – carrier fees. In the June 2007 issue of US Banker John Engen discusses the WAP solution with a number of subject matter experts including Bob Egan (chief analyst at Tower Group) and Dan Schatt (analyst at Celent.) In the article, which I highly recommend reading, Engen writes, “even so, Egan says he knows of at least one situation where a carrier is threatening to block access to a bank’s mobile site, because of no financial agreement. ‘At the end of the day, the carrier can control and block domain addresses,’ Schatt says. ‘They might not want to exercise that power, but that’s the reality.’”

Now, obviously a carrier blocking a bank’s domain would be aggressive, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Also, isn’t this similar to the topic of net neutrality? (learn more: savetheinternet.com) I’d love to hear what others think about this topic.