Jeff Dennes, executive director of mobile money and movementatUSAA, is about as close as mobile banking comes to having a rock star. It was standing-room only in Las Vegas last month when Dennes ran through USAA's mobile strategy at SourceMedia's Mobile Banking & Emerging Applications Summit. (BTN is a SourceMedia publication.)

The energy at the event was high with more than 300 bankers in attendance-more than triple the number that showed up in 2009. Not surprisingly, a pre-conference survey showed that most of those at the show-60 percent-represented institutions with no mobile banking capabilities. Of those with mobile offerings, a third offered SMS banking, a third offered optimization for a mobile browser and 15 percent had an iPhone app.

More interesting was what these bankers said was on their mobile roadmap. It's all about the smart phones: in the next year, 74 percent plan to add an iPhone app, 72 percent an Android app, 60 percent a Blackberry app. In the more basic categories, 56 percent say they'll build an SMS banking app, and half a mobile browser. Just a third plan to add person-to-person payments, and a surprisingly high 18 percent said they'd get into NFC payments.

Unlike years past, there wasn't too much debate about why banks need to offer mobile banking to their increasingly mobile customer base. Attendees said their primary drivers for adding mobile services were to drive competitive advantage and to increase customer loyalty (72 and 68 percent respectively). About half said offering mobile is now "table stakes." Bob Hedges, principal at advisory firm Mercatus, put it most succinctly when he said, "Making a business case for mobile banking is about like making a business case for oxygen."

Consider the death you'd suffer if deprived of oxygen, and you've got an idea of how Phil Philliou of payments consultancy Philliou Selwanes Partners sees the mobile imperative. "My view as a payments guy is that mobile is probably the best opportunity we have as issuers, because we're in a very scary transition period right now," he said, noting the legislatively evolving economics of the card issuing business. "If you're an issuer, this should scare the daylights out of you."

Visa, US Bank, Citigroup, and others discussed their innovations beyond mobile banking, with shopping services, alerts and offers delivered to mobile phones, setting up mobile payments as a possible savior of the traditional card business. "If you look at mobile as a new profit stream, a new revenue source, very quickly that's going to become extremely important to you," Philliou says. His isn't the prevailing view of mobile payments, but one that banks will be happy to see emerge.

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