As Bank of the West builds out its business and consumer mobile banking, much of the responsibility will fall on John Finley's shoulders. Finley, a three-year Bank of the West vet, recently discussed the bank's plans, the utility of 'old school' SMS, and the portability of the handset as a security tool.


BTN: What's your financial and tech background, and how does it lend itself to mobile financial services?

Finley: I have more than twelve years of online customer experience management, internet development, and internet product management, and have internet experience...having worked at financial institutions including Washington Mutual and Capital One where I developed online solutions for mortgage brokers, correspondent lenders, and employees. I've also worked for internet start-ups in Silicon Valley and internationally in Australia as the Director of Product Management and User Experience. I've also spent several years in the internet consulting field, leading the delivery of ecommerce web solutions for U.S. brands including Macy's and Blockbuster video.


What are some of your latest updates to your mobile banking offering for consumers and/or business?

We are in the final stage of developing an iPhone app that will make mobile banking for Bank of the West customers very convenient. The app provides our current mobile web features but with easier navigation combined with geolocation features that come with the iPhone. For small business customers who use our consumer online banking platform, we will soon provide the same mobile banking features for their businesses that our consumer banking customers enjoy today.


What makes this a good time to develop mobile banking?

Sales of mobile devices are outpacing PCs. That tells where the consumer is headed, and our industry needs to be right there with that trend. When consumers started to do their banking online we met that need, now consumers are opting to do more and more of their activities on a mobile device, and it's only natural that they want to do their banking on their mobile devices [regardless of the form factor].


While there's a lot of buzz about new innovation, how can simple mobile functions like SMS still be beneficial for consumers?

Among our customers the single most popular mobile activity is to check an account balance. SMS is the quick, convenient and secure way to do that. It's not sexy, it's just simple and effective. Our customers love that feature.


What do you think is that next big thing for mobile banking?

The security of a mobile device will create new opportunities. The mobile device can actually make online banking more secure. Let's say you need to make a large money transfer. A person's mobile phone is very personal. We carry them everywhere now, right? So with a mobile device you can have a secure code sent to you to verify the transaction, and you can enter the code in your phone to verify the transaction.


How do you fit your mobile channel in with other points of contact?

As we continue to develop our multi channel strategy, we have the same objective- deliver [good] customer experience. Mobile is another way to provide great service that is reliable, convenient and makes managing your finances enjoyable.


Have you developed services for tablets?

No specific apps, but in the development of we made sure the site was optimized for the iPad.


Does Bank of the West charge for mobile services?

No. We don't charge people to come into our branch, or use our ATMs, or bank online, why would we single out the mobile channel to charge? People want to bank when they want, where they want and how they want, and we want to be there for them.


Is Bank of the West planning to adopt mobile RDC?

Yes, that is included in our initiatives. For competitive reasons, I can't comment on the timing, however.


What kinds of promise does the phone/GPS function of handsets hold for mobile financial services?

Geolocation makes banking more convenient. If you're shopping in downtown San Francisco and you need cash, or you're traveling to Denver and need to find a Bank of the West branch [GPS can prove useful]. With geolocation you don't have to stop what you're doing. It is a very appealing feature for our customers. Also, as it develops we see opportunities to push localized offers to customers. The bridging of the digital channel and the physical channels - branches and ATMs - is intriguing to us and we see real opportunities to use geolocation to strengthen relationships.


How does Bank of the West handle security for its mobile financial services (i.e. what kinds of authentication, etc.)?

We use the same authentication security as in online banking, which is RSA. Also, as part of enrollment in mobile banking we do a device authentication to verify ownership of the phone and the account.

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