JPMorgan Chase & Co. may soon, for the first time, let employees use iPhones for corporate e-mail, as an alternative to Research in Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry, two people familiar with the situation said.
JPMorgan Chase is testing the Apple Inc. device and smartphones based on Google Inc.'s Android software, according to the people, who did not want to be named because the plans have not been made public. The banking company is the second-largest in the U.S. by assets and has about 220,000 employees worldwide.
Research suggests that BlackBerry loyalty may be fading among the bankers, lawyers and government workers who drove RIM's initial success. About 42% of BlackBerry users say they want to stick with the brand when they buy a new phone, according to an August survey by Nielsen Co. The rates are 89% for iPhone owners and 71 % for Android devices.
UBS AG, Switzerland's biggest bank, said it, too, is considering letting its staff use iPhones for company messaging as more of them opt for the Apple product. UBS has more than 63,000 employees.
Standard Chartered Bank PLC said in May that it is switching from the BlackBerry to the iPhone for employees and expects to have 15,000 distributed by yearend.
Apple and Google are making inroads in RIM's traditional stronghold with corporate customers after their devices caught on with consumers. "This phenomenon is very new, and we expect it to put increased pressure on RIM's performance," said Pierre Ferragu, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd. "BlackBerry isn't the only alternative to offer employees mobile e-mail."
JPMorgan Chase is testing for security in batches of a few hundred devices, and a decision is expected this year, one person familiar with the matter said. It would not buy iPhones or Android phones for employees, as it now does with BlackBerrys. Rather, it would let employees use their own devices to send and receive corporate e-mail, the person said.
Jennifer Zuccarelli, a spokeswoman for JPMorgan Chase, and Natalie Harrison, an Apple spokeswoman, declined to comment. Marisa Conway, a spokeswoman for RIM, also declined to comment.
UBS does not plan to replace the BlackBerrys it issues with iPhones anytime soon, spokesman Jean-Raphael Fontannaz said by telephone from Zurich. Rather, it is testing the possibility of letting employees use an iPhone or other smartphone to connect to UBS's e-mail system without restricting the device's private use, he said.
"There are certainly quite a few employees that have private iPhones," he said, "and as a bank we have to ask ourselves if that could be an option for us."
RIM's share of the global smartphone market slid to 18.2% in the second quarter, from 19% a year earlier as customers opted for rivals' phones with larger screens and more applications, according to the research firm IDC. Apple's market share rose to 14.2%, from 13%, and Android surged to 17.2%, from 1.8%.
Apple said in July that more than 80% of the Fortune 100 companies were deploying or testing the iPhone. The Cupertino, Calif., technology company has taken steps to improve the iPhone's security such as strengthening encryption tools, adding the ability to set longer pass codes and integrating with servers that could wipe out or lock an iPhone if it is lost.
More companies are set to follow suit, according to an August survey done by Sanford C. Bernstein. Of 200 companies surveyed in the U.S. and U.K., 74% now let their employees use devices other than BlackBerrys, the research found. For the U.S. alone, the figure was 83%.
Cost savings and employee preference were the two biggest factors cited by companies for their shift in the Bernstein survey. Employees would rather own an iPhone and are increasingly willing to buy it themselves, which helps cuts costs, said Bernstein's Ferragu.