Large Banks Are Becoming Serious About Mobile Payments

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A year ago, banks expressed an interest in mobile banking and payments during discussions with Fiserv Inc. This year, those that have not already made a real play to support the technology appear ready to do so, Fiserv says.

Fiserv in September worked with Forrester Research to talk with 10 major financial institutions about their plans for mobile banking and payments for 2012, according to Calvin Grimes, mobile solutions manager at Fiserv. Last year, the firms spoke with 15 financial institutions about their mobile plans for this year.

"Last year, we heard a lot about fast-following as a strategy," in which the banks would wait for competitors to move before they made plans to introduce mobile services," says Grimes. This year, financial institutions are changing their approach, he says.

For example, eight out of 10 banks contacted this year said they were planning to invest in mobile payments next year, with seven saying they are investing specifically in person-to-person payments. "They understand it is an element of a broader payment strategy with a mobile device," says Grimes.

Banks have three primary drivers moving them forward with mobile services-consumer and merchant interest and benefit to the institution, Grimes says.

Financial institutions have a better "understanding of the strength and weaknesses of the mobile ecosystem. Last year we did not hear about market drivers," he says.

The change of heart among banks is a general evolution as they see emerging mobile-payment technologies becoming real, especially with moves by Isis and Google Inc. and anticipated announcements from Apple Inc. on mobile payments, Grimes says.

"The financial institutions understand that this [mobile evolution] is really happening, and they have to be thinking ahead," he says. "They're seeing a real tactile interaction with the mobile devices and what they can do."

Nine of the 10 of financial institutions interviewed this year already had a mobile-banking offering supporting basic account access, such as ATM and branch locaters, transfers between accounts and bill payment. In 2012, they plan to focus on delivering remote deposit capture, additional payment capabilities and actionable alerts, which enable recipients to initiate actions such as funds transfer to cover a low-balance alert.

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