Mobile banking through mobile devices such as cellular phones, smart phones and personal digital assistants has more than doubled globally since 2008, with consumers in the Asia-Pacific region, Central and Eastern Europe and the United States at the forefront, new research from KPMG International suggests.

The New York-based audit, tax and advisory firm in late July released results from its Global Consumers and Convergence survey. KPMG conducted the research earlier this year through an online and telephone survey of 5,627 consumers in 22 countries including as Australia, Germany, France, Japan and India. Respondents on average were 35 years old; in the U.S. respondents on average were 37.

Survey results showed that 34% of all consumers are comfortable using mobile phones for online banking and financial transactions, compared with 14% who said so in 2008.

Some 46% of consumers said they have used their mobile device for banking compared with 19% who said so in 2008. About 30% of all respondents said they conduct personal banking on their mobile device at least once a month, compared with 10% who said so in 2008.

In the U.S., 19% of respondents used their mobile device to conduct a banking transaction, compared with 9% in 2008. In the Asia-Pacific region, 61% of consumers said they used their mobile device for banking, while 45% of respondents in Central/Eastern Europe said they have used a mobile banking service.

Consumers in the Asia-Pacific region are more likely to use their mobile devices for banking because in some countries mobile networks are more common than high-speed wireless wire-line networks for performing various banking tasks, Carl Carande, a principal in KPMG LLP's banking and finance advisory practice, tells PaymentsSource.

And despite the recent uptick in mobile banking in the U.S., KPMG noted in its report that U.S. mobile-banking users are still in the minority, which represents a significant market opportunity.

Earlier this month, the Boston-based advisory research and consulting company, IDC Financial Insights also reported the use of mobile-banking service in the U.S. is increasing but is still not a widely accepted practice.

And while U.S. consumer may lag other regions in mobile banking, Carande contends that mobile banking usage in the U.S. is likely to continue increasing.

About two-thirds of all consumers worldwide are not yet comfortable conducting financial transactions on their mobile phone, KPMG said.

And among U.S. respondents who have not used their mobile devices for mobile banking, 52% said it was due to security and privacy issues. Because of this, these concerns "may need to be addressed to support continued widespread acceptance," Carande says.

Aside from mobile banking increasing, consumers also are more likely to use their mobile device to purchase something from a merchant's mobile website, according to the survey. More than 10% of U.S. consumers indicated they had shopped through their mobile device, double the amount in 2008. U.S. respondents 55 or older, however, noted they are hesitant to engage in mobile purchases.

Globally, 28% of respondents said they had accessed an Internet site from their phone, up from 10% who said so in 2008, while 41% of consumers in the Asia-Pacific region said they have used their mobile device to make purchases from a merchant's site, up from 14% in 2008.

In general, "mobile banking is not meant to replicate the experience of visiting a branch in person. It is simply another vehicle banks can utilize to make banking more accessible to consumers by supporting more convenient payment options," Carande said.

However, because many consumers are hesitant to use mobile devices for bank transactions, "banks may need to work harder to increase customer awareness of the availability of mobile banking and clearly articulate the value proposition of the service."

Additionally, many banks in the U.S. either do not offer or have just begun to offer mobile banking services, Ron Shevlin, senior analyst with Boston-based Aite Group LLC, tells PaymentsSource. Therefore, U.S. numbers are lower because the "supply side isn't there," Shevlin says.

According to KPMG's survey results, three-quarters of U.S. respondents said that their current bank either does not offer mobile banking or that they did not even know if their bank offered the service.

To entice consumers to use mobile banking, "banks should look to offer something through the mobile banking channel that isn't offered through any other channel such as financial advice (and) alerts," Shevlin says. And banks need to do this without "replicating the online service," he adds.

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