SunTrust Bank in Atlanta has a prominent mobile banking application. It works on hundreds of handsets-including the Apple iPhone-and is accessible to SunTrust customers on five wireless carriers.
But on SunTrust's Web site, you'd be hard pressed to find any clue such a mobile option exists. No mention of mobile banking exists on SunTrust's home page or a main portal for personal banking. It's only after clicking through to a page touting online banking will a SunTrust user find a link explaining how to sign up for mobile services.
This "Where's Waldo" way of promoting mobile banking plagues a number of the large retail banks, explains Steve Ellis, a partner with New York research firm Change Sciences Group. The firm recently released a report judging how well the nation's 10 largest banks communicate to customers about mobile services; the results weren't flattering.
"With mobile being such a hot topic, and such potential benefit to end users, you'd expect you could land on a bank's home page," says Ellis. "On around half the sites, you're simply not told anything" on the bank's main screen.
The Change Sciences report notes six of the 10 major bank sites silo information and instructions for mobile banking on the page promoting online banking, rather than a main account info section. It also looked at how well banks explained mobile banking once users found a guide. Again, not good. Nine out of 10 lacked clarity on key questions, such as whether mobile services are free, says Ellis.
"Not everybody is in the app store, downloading stuff directly to their device," he says. "There are questions people have-how it works, whether their device is supported, and how to get started."