There was plenty of excitement around mobile bankingapplications at BAI's Retail Delivery conference in Las Vegas at the end of October. Google, Verizon and AT&T were there in their very own mobile clique on the show floor, and Mitek won BAI's first MobileLink award for its new app that allows users to capture and pay bills with a mobile phone the same way they capture and deposit checks.
Also generating buzz was American Banker and BTN's FinTech 100 ranking, which for the first time occupied a primo pavilion on the show floor, thanks to a SourceMedia partnership with BAI. What's curious is that there was no intersection between the two attention-getters: The FinTech 100 ranks the top technology vendors to the financial services industry based on revenue, but no pure-play mobile vendor has hit the roughly $50 million in revenue required to make the list.
This seems odd given that mobile banking vendors like ClairMail, mFoundry, and M-Com are mopping up in the U.S. market. TowerGroup, in a study sponsored by ClairMail, estimates active users of mobile banking in the U.S. will grow from 10 million in 2009 to 53 million in 2013. ClairMail's research projects 46 percent of the top 600 banks plan to purchase or implement mobile banking in 2010.
So where's all the revenue? M-Com and mFoundry are getting much of their work through channel partners, Fiserv and FIS are among their largest, respectively. But their revenue is generated monthly and in small increments with each bank that signs up. ClairMail, which utilizes a direct sales channel, charges up-front licensing fees and is able to book revenue in big chunks from large banks. Competitors and ClairMail execs agree that ClairMail may be the first to hit the $50 million mark. In its most recent press release the company says it posted a 500 percent year-over-year revenue increase, and that its customers include eight of the top 12 North American banks.
But a major hurdle standing between pureplays and inclusion on the FinTech 100 may be their venture capital owners' exit strategies. ClairMail recently sealed a deal on $13.8 million with Investor Growth Capital, known for its late-stage investments. And M-Com and mFoundry are tied in tightly with the acquisitive Fiserv and FIS, who both have a habit of picking off the hottest pure-plays. ClairMail seems more inclined to go the IPO route, which may keep its big-bank clients happiest in the long run.
But there's one other point to be made here: inclusion in the FinTech 100 has no regard for profitability-this year's no. 7, First Data, lost $1.1 billion last year, for example. Getting to $50 million profitably is surely harder than just getting there, and that's perhaps the biggest challenge for mobile vendors that are growing about as fast as their own hyperbole.