Just for example, take Nina. Or rather, talk to Nina. It's the new virtual assistant from Nuance Communications Inc. It's similar, but not related, to the iPhone's Siri service, but it takes voice and speech recognition to an almost eerie extreme. Nuance is not, strictly speaking, a financial services provider but its technology can be adapted to it. USAA, in fact, is beta-testing Nina to make mobile bill paying even easier.
Check out the YouTube link below to see a demonstration of this. The (human) user calls up Nina and tells it to pay a bill. Nina asks which bill to pay. The user tells it. Nina asks how much to pay. The user tells it that. Bing! It's done.
"We believe that the virtual assistant has tremendous potential to make it simpler, faster, and more satisfying for our members to manage their financial affairs on their mobile devices," says Neff Hudson, assistant vice president of emerging channels for USAA.
There are more examples of innovations in this area, but first, the numbers need crunching to put this in perspective.
SWACHA, a not-for-profit electronic payments association based in Dallas, says mobile banking usage has tripled since 2009.
"Mobile payments are the next frontier for our industry and we expect the service to spread quickly over the next few years. People are widely using their phones to check their account balance and transfer money, and as financial institutions, mobile devices, and retailers adopt the technology we expect most people to swipe their phone at the register of their favorite stores as well," says Dennis Simmons, president and CEO of SWACHA.
That seemingly mature channel, online banking-on computers as opposed to hand-held devices-still has untapped potential due to ever-mounting expectations from the public. Javelin Strategy & Research says in a just-issued report that people want ever-increasing functionality from their online banking channels. The report examines several nonbank competitors such as Quicken, MyCheckFree, Bill.com, and others that threaten to steal customers away from banks.
"Consumers are telling financial institutions that online banking and bill pay isn't good enough, and financial institutions aren't listening," says Jim Van Dyke, president, Javelin. "Financial institutions need to get to the heart of what consumers really want and take online banking and bill pay to the next level. The way to do this is to make online banking the foundation of personal banking and shift the focus away from simply completing transactions."
Don't forget tablet banking, either. Earlier this year Fiserv issued a survey that predicted that "almost 40% of online households could own a tablet by mid-2012." Respondents indicated that they'd likely use tablets to view monthly statements (69%), pay bills (56%), view real-time account information (50%), and transfer money between accounts at the same financial institution (49%).
"As tablet ownership grows, demand for tablet-based banking is likely to grow as well," Fiserv concludes.
So, functionality is the name of the game, whether it's online, mobile, or tablet. An argument could be made that there is considerable overlap among these channels, even though studies have shown that they do service distinct niches in terms of demographics and use.
One example of overlap in the industry: Payveris LLC partnered with Alkami Technology recently "to bring breakthrough integration of full-featured bill pay into a seamless online and mobile banking channel user experience."
Says Alkami's president, Stephen Bohanon, the purpose of the partnership is "to move our industry from the typical stand-alone single-sign-on bill pay integration to a truly integrated online and mobile banking channel experience."
Still, online and tablet channels notwithstanding, the name of the game right now is mobile. Celent evaluates a number of financial technology start-ups featured at the Spring Finovate conference in San Francisco, where 18 of the 64 presenters were in the mobile space. It's interesting what developments Celent itself found most interesting:
· BehavioSec BehavioMobile-A behavioral biometrics product that creates a gesture-based fingerprint to validate PIN or password entry.
· Edo Interactive GeoCommerce Offers-Card-linked offers that are activated based on the user's location and spending history.
· Flint Mobile-Mobile credit card payments for on-the-go businesses, that also integrates social networking.
· NICE systems NICE Mobile Reach-A customer-service solution for mobile applications that brings together contextual information and multimedia tools to assist customer service resolution via mobile devices.
There are more examples in the report, which concludes that mobile banking, in general, is location-aware, generally immediate, suited for real-time action, and best for consuming information than entering data.
Celent's conclusion: "Mobile is on a huge growth curve with end-user adoption skyrocketing, and banks feel they need to be part of this wave. Rightly so. Companies large and small are looking to take advantage of this wave. Some will succeed, and some will fail."
To return to the Wild West analogy: "Them's fightin' words."
Sources used for this report include:
Nuance Introduces Nina, the Virtual Assistant for Mobile Customer Service Apps
New Growth Areas Found in Otherwise Flat Online Banking and Bill Pay Market
Mobile banking has tripled in two years according to SWACHA survey
Online, Mobile and Tablet Banking Use Growing, says Fiserv Consumer Trends Survey
Payveris Partners With Alkami
Innovations in Mobile at Finovate
About the Author
John Ginovsky is contributing editor of ABA Banking Journal and editor of the publication's TechTopics e-newsletter. For more than two decades he has written about the commercial banking industry. In particular, he's specialized in the technological side of banking and how it relates to the actual business of banking. He previously was senior editor for Community Banker magazine (which merged with ABA Banking Journal) and was a staff writer for ABA's Bankers News. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org