What We’re Reading: Microlending and Social Media, Mobile Payments and Mobile Banking

Below are interesting stories the Banking.com staff has been reading over the past week. What have you been reading? Let us know in the comments section below or Tweet @bankingdotcom.

  • Banks See Dollar Signs in Getting Websites Up to Date

American Banker

Banks are starting to notice that their online banking and mobile sites are not as good as customers expect. “On balance, the customer experience presented in financial services tends to be less advanced than that of Amazon, Apple, Google and others,” Jeffery Yabuki, Fiserv Inc.’s chief executive, said in an interview Thursday at Sibos in Toronto. “That’s why consumers tend to view banks’ websites as not good enough.” This is beginning to change, he says, as many banks, especially the largest ones, are making major investments in their mobile and online banking platforms. At eight large U.S. banks, there are online banking revitalization projects going on that will end up costing upwards of $100 million apiece. A similar shift is happening in mobile banking.

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  • Microlending and Social Media: Competition Between Banks and Non-Bank Lenders

Bank Systems & Technology

George Warfel, consulting director of global payment solutions at Fiserv, gave his insight on microlending and social media for a byline in Bank Systems & Technology: The mention of microlending may call up images of loans made to farmers in India or credit extended to women entrepreneurs in immigrant communities. While the village-based credit delivered by non-governmental organizations does constitute microlending, it is only part of the scope of microlending today. Now, instead of rural villages, microlending has shifted to social media-based online communities and the prevalent non-bank payment companies are facilitating the transactions. To prevent the loss of short-term loans to competitors, banks need to establish a social media presence that will help retain customers and generate income.

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  • Banks vs. tech/telco: Who will win mobile payment race?

Connected Planet

Fiserv, a provider of financial services technology solutions, has produced a paper  explaining why banks are best placed to win in the mobile payment space. This is good news for banks, but the problem is that high tech companies are already in place and others are getting in fast. According to Pew Research, 30% of American smartphone users rely on their devices to manage their daily lives, including their financial ones. Fiserv believes that banks are missing out on an ‘open door’ opportunity. With 58% of smartphone users interested or somewhat interested in paying or receiving bills via their mobile device, the opportunity is obvious ($670 billion by 2015, according to Juniper), but the banks have not moved.

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  • Banking? Thanks, but No Thanks.

Forbes.com

Banks, forced by regulation to lend to “priority sectors,” which include rural markets, don’t find it a viable business.  So, the question must be asked, “Is there a need for simple, conventional thinned down banking services among the financially excluded?” Author Sanat Rao is not suggesting for a moment that the unbanked are financially irrelevant.  Far from it. But let’s recognize that banking has been designed to serve urban, salaried, middle-aged classes, which have very different needs and goals.  Mobile banking is so far designed to accommodate the moneyed classes who are too busy to find an ATM or a branch.

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  • SMS Text, mWeb or Downloadable App – Which Deserves the Crown?

Javelin Strategy & Research Blog

We are in the process of finishing up our annual mobile banking vendor scorecard and we’ve seen some surprising findings come out of the process. One of the questions we asked vendors is: What is the average number of transactions per user per month (across the entire customer/channel base in the US) by mode? Answers varied by vendor but a pattern definitely emerged: In 2011, U.S. mobile banking vendors awarded the crown to the downloadable app based on average number of consumer transactions per month. SMS text experienced the lowest consumer usage patterns, apps the highest, and mWeb fell somewhere in the middle. Using a straight average based on the numbers of vendors reporting, the mean number of transactions was 9 for SMS, 10 for mWeb and 15 for apps.

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  • For Hackers, the Next Lock to Pick

New York Times

Hackers have broken into the cellphones of celebrities like Scarlett Johansson and Prince William. But what about the rest of us, who might not have particularly salacious photos or voice messages stored in our phones, but nonetheless have e-mails, credit card numbers and records of our locations? A growing number of companies, including start-ups and big names in computer security like McAfee, Symantec, Sophos and AVG, see a business opportunity in mobile security — protecting cellphones from hacks and malware that could read text messages, store location information or add charges directly to mobile phone bills. On Tuesday, McAfee introduced a service for consumers to protect their smartphones, tablets and computers at once, and last week the company introduced a mobile security system for businesses.

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  • For Some Companies, No Interest In Interest

Wall Street Journal

A little-noticed provision of last year’s financial-overhaul law gave companies something they had long wanted: a way to earn interest on large balances held in bank checking accounts. But now, with the economy weak and interest rates tumbling, many of them don’t want it anymore. The law, which permits banks to pay interest on business checking accounts for the first time since the 1930s, is getting a lukewarm reception from companies that long lobbied for the measure. That is because in a period of historically low interest rates, some companies would rather rely on other ways in which they can make money on short-term deposits, including deals that many companies use to cut the fees they pay bankers.

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