The growth of mobile banking for corporate users has lagged that of consumer users, mostly because the specialized use case for corporate clients is harder to sell. But this is gradually changing, according to new research from Celent.

"Corporate mobile isn't for everybody, it's for the executive or the person with decision-making authority," says Jacob Jegher, a senior analyst at Celent, who just finished the new research.

Jegher's report finds that corporate mobile banking, while expanding, still lags well behind consumer mobile banking. Celent says that only ten of the largest 25 banks currently offer some form of mobile banking for corporate clients, which is up substantially from 2007 (when only Wells Fargo offered corporate mobile via its CEO Mobile). Adoption is still sluggish, considering that 24 of the largest 25 banks offer consumer mobile banking services. "Corporate mobile is still a far cry from that," Jegher says.

In the past year or so more banks, including Bank of America, PNC, RBS, Deutsche Bank, Union Bank, Citigroup, JPMorgan and U.S. Bank, have joined Wells in the corporate mobile space. Celent says that by 2013, 15 of the largest 25 banks will offer corporate mobile banking and a growing number of banks in the lower tiers will also adopt the service.

"Mobility is no longer a nice to have. Anything that can be done digitally is going to be mainstream today, and corporate mobile is no exception," Jegher says.

One reason for the increased uptake is the focus on business banking by financial institutions as consumer banking continues to struggle. "Corporate executives want to use their shiny new devices [smartphones or tablets] for business. And it's up to banks to keep them happy," Jegher writes in the report.

There's a mix of browser-based and native applications in the corporate mobile space. Five of the ten large banks Celent studied provide a browser-based service, while three offer only native apps and two offer both native app and browser. "The reason for the [browser-based] services is to cut development and maintenance and make it simpler to deploy," Jegher says. Among the native apps, three are Apple iOS only, while two offer iOS, Android and Blackberry.

Mobile tablets can help increase attractiveness to corporates. Celent says tablets will strongly influence future corporate online banking solutions as the tablets present a slew of capabilities to banks that provide a way to improve user experience. Of particular note is the tablets' ability to contribute to the design of online dashboards. "The modern and slick experience found within native apps on the tablet will get banks and software vendors thinking about how to best apply these experiences to online banking," Jegher writes.

He says the popularity of the tablet will drive interest in the overhauling of corporate cash management online, and uses that take advantage of tablets. "Banks require a common framework for the creation of components that can be used and applied to multiple device types. In other words, it should be relatively easy for online banking dashboard elements to be replicated within a native app on a tablet or vice versa," Jegher writes.