6 Mobile Banking Features on B of A's Drawing Board

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Bank of America isn't generally first to market with new mobile banking features, but when it does offer something new, it draws high adoption numbers and it strikes fear in the hearts of competing bankers, who know their customers will soon start asking why their bank doesn't offer it.

Case in point: the bank launched mobile check deposit last August (USAA launched this feature in August 2009; Chase launched it in July 2010). Today, Bank of America has 1.9 million users of mobile deposit, it's processed 18 million check images captured this way, and on average it is handling 100,000 checks per day through mobile deposit. All told, about $11 billion has been deposited at the bank through smartphones. Smaller banks now consider mobile check deposit table stakes and feel pressure to add the capability if they don't already have it.

Bank of America has 12.5 million active users of mobile banking in general and handles 1.5 million mobile logins a month. About 33% of its mobile subscriber base use mobile banking 85% of the time.

On Monday, David Godsman, online and mobile solutions executive at the bank, shared with us plans for upcoming releases of mobile banking apps starting in May and continuing into summer and fall. All the new features will be incorporated in the bank's native apps for iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows 7 and Windows 8 devices. Most of the new features were developed based on in-app feedback from customers, according to Godsman.

One upcoming enhancement will be a calendar tool, similar to an Outlook meeting request, that lets users schedule an appointment with a banking center associate from their mobile device. "If you know you'll be out running errands and you want to visit a banking center to have a conversation about a specific product or question about your account, you're able to schedule that in advance and an associate will be waiting there for you," Godsman says.

A second new mobile banking feature the bank will let customers request replacement cards if they've lost a card or if it was stolen.

A third feature will let customers notify the bank of any travel plans. "This is critical for customers who travel sporadically, especially if they travel to Europe, Latin America or Asia and need to be able to use their bank cards," Godsman says. The bank will be able to adjust its fraud detection algorithms accordingly.

A fourth new tool will let customers manage checks and statements of the past 18 months within the mobile app. The format and presentation of these documents has yet to be determined.

A fifth new feature will let customers request money from another party. Bank of America customers can already send person-to-person payments using an email address and/or a mobile phone number. The enhanced version will let them send a simple invoice to another individual. This could be used, for instance, if a group of friends goes out to dinner and one person pays with his credit card. That person could ask the others to send their share to his account through the banking app.

The last mobile banking feature Bank of America is developing for the near term is a "click to call" button through which the customer could request to have a customer service rep call him back immediately at the number of his choice. This lets the customer avoid navigating the bank's interactive voice response system as well as the need to wait on hold.

In a survey of 600 smartphone users conducted by The Adcom Group of Companies and commissioned by Virtual Hold Technology, 21% said they could not easily speak to a customer service representative. Citizens Bank and others have instituted some form of click-to-call feature.

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