USABancshares.com is set to become one of the few U.S. banks offering services over wireless devices.
Starting March 15, it will offer access to account data in real time and the ability to conduct transactions, including bill payments, balance inquiries, account transfers, and interactive customer service, via mobile units. Users will be able to access the service through a number of devices, including Palm VII personal digital assistants and cellular phones.
The Philadelphia-based bank joins Bank of America Corp. and Harris Bank of Chicago, a Bank of Montreal subsidiary, in making advances into mobile banking.
"We're certainly the only bank with under $1 billion of assets to offer wireless banking," said Kenneth Tepper, president and chief executive officer of USABancshares, which has $350 million of assets and 15,000 customers.
When the network goes live, it will be available to all comers. "We'll allow them to get news and stock quotes without having a bank account with us," Mr. Tepper said. "We hope ultimately they'll become account holders."
The Internet bank has not yet determined a fee for the service. "We're exploring ways to use wireless to grow our network and introduce people to our low-cost goods and services," Mr. Tepper said.
USABancshares developed the software in-house over the past six months with assistance from Electronic Data Systems of Plano, Tex. The bank's wireless server is connected to an EDS core processing system, Mr. Tepper said.
"EDS did a fantastic job in terms of bringing the full functionality of our Internet bank to the wireless world." Mr. Tepper said. He said the investment "was not huge."
USABancshares will be the first bank to offer real-time data, instead of data that are batch processed overnight, Mr. Tepper said.
Harris Bank confirmed that it refreshes data nightly, but said it will move to real-time updates within a month. Bank of America did not return calls seeking confirmation of Mr. Tepper's statement. Both banks use software from 724 Solutions Inc. of Canada.
USABancshares has formed a wireless division that will work with telephone manufacturers to have the bank's wireless application pre-loaded onto mobile phones.
Next on Mr. Tepper's list is to make services available through broadband telecommunications channels. The bank is working with Macromedia Inc. of San Francisco. He said, "We're preparing for a broadband world."