Mobile Money Ventures, the Citi-backed mobile banking and payments joint venture with South Korea’s SK Telecom, plans a U.S. rollout of an iPhone application in January, followed by a mobile Web-based service that will for the first time create a carrier-neutral banking service for Citibank customers.

Steven Kietz, Citi evp and CEO of San Francisco-based MMV, tells BTN that the service is being readied for its North American rollout for the retail side of Citi in the first quarter of 2009. The Mobile Money Ventures application for the iPhone, scheduled for release Jan. 10 in the iTunes application store, was developed with assistance by California-based mFoundry.  

“We’re [also] getting ready to kick off a major project to bring mobile banking to as many as 10 Citibank and credit card entities in Asia in 2009,” Kietz adds. “And we’ll continue business development efforts with non-Citi entities,” including offering a mobile banking platform for other banks in non-Citi markets, which could be widespread, given Citi’s geographically concentrated U.S. retail-branch network.

Citi has been experimenting with several variations of mobile banking and payments with multiple partners, including mFoundry and Qualcomm’s Firethorn Technologies, for the past few years, led by its 2007 launch of the Citi Mobile downloadable banking application available on certain phones on the AT&T, Verizon and Sprint networks. CitiCards has a separate application for its customers, and offers an SMS account-to-account mobile transfer service using the Obopay platform. Besides the iPhone app, Mobile Money Ventures plans a banking app compatible with Google’s open-source Android platform. That application is still in development, according to Jay Bhattacharya, co-founder and svp of strategic development for MMV.

The U.S. phase-in would follow the first commercial launches of its mobile banking and brokerage offerings in the Philippines and Hong Kong this fall.

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