Banks and aggregators say that mobile financial services, and especially tools that run on smart phones, are not just a way to improve customers' access to their accounts but also are a lure for new customers.
Bank of America Corp. offers a downloadable mobile banking tool through the Apple Inc. online application store that features Top 20 lists of popular products.
The Charlotte financial company's application, which it unveiled in July with the start-up of the Apple store, was listed Monday as the No. 1 free financial application.
Securing this preference "has amplified our brand and the brand-value proposition. It puts Bank of America top of mind," Douglas Brown, the company's senior vice president of mobile product development, said in an interview on Jan. 27.
Mr. Brown said that mobile banking is attracting customers to B of A. Of the company's 1.9 million active mobile banking users, 8% to 10% signed up for mobile banking within 90 days after opening their accounts, he said, which suggests that mobile banking was part of what attracted them in the first place.
More than 40% of the active mobile banking users — which B of A defines as someone who has done mobile banking within the past 90 days — use Apple's iPhone or iPod Touch, and most of these use the downloadable application, Mr. Brown said. They can also use a mobile version of B of A's Web site.
Bank of America also offers a downloadable application for Google Inc.'s Android mobile phone platform, and it has applied to sell its mobile software on the mobile marketplace that Research In Motion Ltd. is developing for its BlackBerry devices.
Some financial aggregators also say that mobile banking applications are attracting new users to their Web sites.
"We've been acquiring a lot of new users as well through Apple," said Aaron Patzer, the founder and chief executive of Mint Software Inc., which operates a financial management and aggregation Web site. "The retention and adoption has just been phenomenal."
Mint has about 800,000 users, and Mr. Patzer said it signed up 50,000 in the first full week of January; many of these may have been people making New Year's resolutions to keep better track of their finances, he said.
PayPal Inc. has also had success with its own iPhone application, which lets users make person-to-person payments. The San Jose payments unit of eBay Inc. had offered mobile phone person-to-person payments since 2006 through a text message service that worked on most phones.
The introduction of an iPhone application stimulated a quadrupling of its mobile P-to-P transaction volume.
And Rudder Inc., which offers a personal financial management tool and delivers daily e-mail updates to users, is planning to introduce its own iPhone application in mid-February. Rudder was started in September and has about 31,000 users.
Rudder's founder and chief executive, Nikhil Roy, said that part of the reason it will offer an iPhone tool is to reach an underserved part of the Houston company's audience. One-tenth of his company's users do not want to get financial information by e-mail, citing security concerns, he said, and delivering the information to iPhones, which can be protected with passwords, would appeal to this audience.
Rudder is also hoping "to attract new users that are buying iPhones and that are browsing through the iPhone app store and really looking for a way to manage their finances," Mr. Roy said. "We could use this almost as a user acquisition channel, and that's very much a part of our strategy here for the iPhone."
Rudder signs up 300 new users a day, he said, and he hopes the iPhone application will draw another 300 to 500 new users daily.