In the rush to offer mobile banking to as many customers as possible, several banks have taken a fragmented approach, making different apps for separate regions, customer bases and even different functions tied to the same account. But a startup says it doesn't have to be that way.
Malauzai Software Inc. is working with a handful of banks to develop a smartphone app that can be reformatted automatically depending on the customer who is using it. A bank's entire app catalog would be accessible through a single app.
"What we manage is one app out there, and you download that one app," Tom Shen, the chief executive of Malauzai, said in an interview. "When you go in and register it, either you self-select or we select it for you and you will take on the personality of that" application.
Malauzai executives said they are going through the slow process of trying to build direct connections between their software and other vendors' core processing systems, which can provide more up-to-date information to a consumer using mobile banking.
"It's all about … taking it out of the hands of the engineer, if you will, and putting the control in the hands of the business people through a portal that they can [use to] actually manage that application remotely," Robb Gaynor, chief product officer of Malauzai, said.
The Austin, Texas, company faces competition from established vendors that already have hundreds of mobile banking clients. Shen and Gaynor said their past experience will benefit them as they try to grow.
Shen in 2001 sold a teller software company he started in 1982 called Software Dynamics Inc. to the vendor S1 Corp., where he stayed until 2003. He later worked for Digital Insight, an online banking software vendor that Intuit Inc. acquired in 2007.
Gaynor also worked at Digital Insight and Intuit as a general manager for consumer products. He most recently was the senior vice president of e-commerce at Union Bank, a subsidiary of UnionBanCal, in San Francisco.
Some of Malauzai's first customers, which are preparing to release their apps in the next several weeks, plan to offer versions of their apps for traditional retail, small business and student users.
"What we're finding through our customer research is customers want their bank to be flexible," said Jerry Gassen, the president and chief executive of Ameriana Bank, a subsidiary of the holding company Ameriana Bancorp in New Castle, Ind. "We work very hard to understand where the customer is in a financial life cycle so that we can tailor products to meet their particular needs. We expect that we'll be able to do the same thing using mobile banking."
Ameriana is working with Malauzai to roll out apps for Apple Inc.'s iPhone and iPad and phones running on Google Inc.'s Android operating system in June.
Royal Banks of Missouri, a subsidiary of Royal Bancshares Inc. in St. Louis, also plans to release Malauzai-developed apps for iPhone, Android and Research In Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry smartphones in June. Mike Stevenson, a senior vice president and head of retail banking for the company, said it plans eventually to include pitches for products in the apps.
Malauzai's segmented approach is one that Mark Schwanhausser, a senior analyst with Javelin Strategy and Research, said could help boost usage of mobile services by banks' customers.
"You're giving them more reason to be self-serviced and kind of influence the behavior you want out of them by giving them the tools that make those behaviors easy," Schwanhausser said.