Consumers eager for proactive mobile banking

The smartphone generation is already engaging with mobile banking services and receptive to apps, mobile internet sites and text messages, but eager for banks to provide more ‘proactive’ services to help them keep control of their finances, according to new research.

Mobile marketing company, Sponge, surveyed 450 consumers via the mobile internet in August and found that 44% claimed to already use the mobile internet, apps or text messaging to interact with their bank; and more than one in four said they did so ‘frequently’.

Of those who didn’t bank via their mobile phone (56%), two thirds said they would be significantly more likely to use such services if they owned a smartphone.

Smartphone penetration in the UK is growing at 70% per annum according to comScore, and is likely to reach 25 million subscribers by the end of 2012.

Although the majority of respondents associated mobile banking with standard ‘control features’ such as checking their balance, with almost half (49%) rating this the most useful function, Sponge’s research also revealed a clear appetite for more proactive services.

Specific areas of interest included a text-based customer service facility (48%), a mobile service that prompts customers to move funds around in order to maximise their rate of return (17%) and a location-based service offering consumers discounts or other rewards from retailers when they use their bank card (26%).

“There seems to be a definite opportunity for more proactive services to drive positive brand differentiation between banks,” said Alex Meisl, co-founder and chairman of Sponge. “Despite substantial advertising investment, no bank has yet succeeded in laying claim to this territory. The basic mobile solutions banks are currently focused on are perfectly valid and useful in their own right, but the smartphone generation has different expectations, and the bank that moves most aggressively to meet them has the chance to re-frame and personalise its relationship with its customers.”

Additional findings from the research include an awareness of, and interest in mobile banking services is currently focused on standard features. Just over a quarter (26%) found viewing mini-statements the most useful function, while 9% found bill payment options best. A further 9% felt the ability to transfer money between accounts most useful, and 6% preferred an alert function when they were about to go overdrawn.

Despite the growing adoption of mobile services, there appears to be a lack of distinction between different banks’ offerings. When asked whether other banks were more advanced than their own in terms of the services they offered via mobile, 70% either “didn’t know” or ranked them “about the same”.

While there are some lingering concerns about safety and security around mobile banking (32% cited this as the greatest barrier), neither price nor privacy appeared as major issues. Less than 5% felt “mobile banking would be expensive”, while less than 8% were concerned about their bank “invading their private space”.

Mobile media consumption in general is occurring across an increasingly broad range of sites and services. 73% of the sample claimed to visit more than ten mobile internet sites each month, and 45% said they visited more than 20. 30% used between four and ten mobile apps each month, with a further 24% using more than ten.