This Week’s Reads: Security, Mobile Banking Malware, ATMs

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.

Don’t Touch the ATM

We have smartphones, and we have ATMs. Why can’t these two essential technologies get along?

It’s a question we’ve asked on this blog before, and with good reason. While every other aspect of financial services has been revolutionized with blizzards of mobile applications, ye olde automated teller machines have remained immovable, like those phone booths no one uses any more. If anything, they’ve proliferated: We see them everywhere, from mega-malls to corner delis, and they still do pretty much what they’ve always done.

Woman Holding Phone 2Of course, that’s not true, and it’s about to become even less so. According to a new report released this week by the ATM Industry Association (ATMIA), the global trade group with 1,300 members in 50 countries, it could be the next market to watch for real innovation. There’s one area in particular that should be really interesting: mobile.

There have been innovations, of course. As we noted earlier, banks in Greece have added elements of social media, with personalized greetings and reminders of other people’s birthdays, enabling instant gifts. Some machines tout their use of solar power.  But fundamentally, it’s still about walking up to that hunk of hardware, pulling out that otherwise-useless debit card, and making a transaction.

For the record, we’ve been hearing for some time now about ‘contactless’ access, which builds on the promise of mobile technologies. Well, it’s here—kind of.

Diebold Federal Credit Union (DFCU) is pioneering what it calls “the world’s first ATM without a card reader or PIN pad that relies solely on mobile authentication.” In a nutshell, here’s how it works. The consumer scans a unique QR code at the ATM using a smartphone, and the ATM authenticates the user via cloud-hosted services to enable secure, cardless transactions. There’s no need for a card or a PIN required, eliminating the fear of card-skimming and shoulder-surfing at the ATM. (Diebold and white-label mobile wallet provider Paydiant developed the cross-channel solutions and hold complementary patents on the technologies.)

An ATM with no card reader sounds basic, but it’s a big deal. Transactions via smartphones and without cards removes a step that is basically very inconvenient and eases theft or fraud. We only accept it because we’re so used to it.

There are other benefits too. For a start, there’s heightened security: While the pho ne could be stolen or lost just as easily, there are new methods of authentication in this arrangement. Bank customers can verify their identity at the ATM by taking a photo of a QR code on the machines screen (yes, despite the frequent criticism, QR codes have some value).

Convenience arrives in other ways, too. By integrating the ATM with Diebold’s Mobile Cash Access (MCA) solution, consumers can actually pre-stage cash withdrawals via their smartphones, even to third parties. Just pick the person you want to send cash to from your contact list, and the app will send a text message to that recipient with a six-digit code. When that person goes to an ATM and enters this code, they’ll get the money. And for those who are environmentally minded, the new arrangement, we should remember, is paperless, delivering receipts via the mobile wallet.

Of course, the real action will be down the road. This is the mobile generation, which the new solution pays tribute to with flick and drag capabilities on the interface. Like most other advances in this all-digital era, the real innovation will come from users. As with Facebook, Twitter and a host of other ground-breaking services, we will routinely use the smartphone-ATM combo to do things we never thought we needed to do. So far, it’s just one bank in one market. Tomorrow, who knows?

All we needed was the technology to get here. Now it has, and it’s about time.

Smartphone, Meet the ATM

For all the focus on banking technologies, there’s one tool that gets virtually no attention, even though it’s indispensable. In fact, most of us still turn to it more often than we do to the branch, the website, or mobile apps. Can you even think what it is?

The ATM.

ATM

Yes, the automated teller machine, the banking-without-a-bank resource that’s been around since the ’60s. It’s allowed consumers of every stripe to perform routine functions (withdrawals, deposits, transfers) inside grocery stores, malls, casinos and a host of other locations. In some ways, even as it took some of the personalization out, it represented the first true advance in innovation and convenience.

Ironically, innovation is not a term we associate with it now. In some ways, the ATM seems a little like the TV set. The screen has gotten sharper, there’s more functionality and greater security, but it’s basically a big, reliable block of hardware that we use the same way we always have, even while the environment around it has undergone a radical transformation. To the naked eye, at least, it hasn’t evolved much in decades.

Of course, that’s not true, and it’s about to become even less so. According to a new report released this week by the ATM Industry Association (ATMIA), the global trade group with 1,300 members in 50 countries, it could be the next market to watch for real innovation. There’s one area in particular that should be really interesting: mobile.

The international survey released this week by the ATMIA forecasts that mobile or ‘contactless’ access will be the fastest-growing, value-added ATM service in the next five years. For now, this represents transactions initiated by a smartphone instead of the traditional debit or credit card; in future, it could likely go off in other directions as well.

For now, as with most technology innovations that arrive unexpectedly and gain mainstream adoption overnight, we can’t imagine what those directions might be. But looking at even recent advances in ATM banking makes it clear that there’s plenty of innovation in this field.

For example, Piraeus Bank in Greece is taking the charms of social media interaction to heart—once you’ve signed on, its ATMs offer personal greetings, remind you of upcoming milestones such as birthdays and anniversaries and ease the process of buying gifts. ANZ Banking Group of Australia and New Zealand, meanwhile, is taking the environmentally friendly route, with ATMs in containers using solar power. Canada’s Scotiabank sees its ATM properties more as a communications tool than a cash dispenser—and by no coincidence at all, a key component of its overall mobile strategy. (For the record, these were just some of the highlights at the ATMIA 2013 conference earlier this month.)

There are interesting developments on the technology side too. For example, with new services now available, banks are partnering with state lottery boards to dispense lottery tickets, and ‘contactless’ ATM banking via NFC (near-field communications) is already on the market, and gaining popularity in some regions.

All of which brings us back to mobile. There’s a certain inevitability to this—we use smartphones and we use ATMs, which means that at some point vendors will successfully unite the two in ways that consumers find convenient. More than half the industry professionals polled in the ATMIA survey said that mobile-initiated ATM services will enjoy the fastest growth in the next five years. (In case you’re wondering, there’s already been a patent protection application filed for “contactless automated teller machine.”)

So beyond the obvious, how will this work? What can we do with an ATM-smartphone combo that we can’t do as well with either one? Innovators, you have the floor.

Image courtesy of scottchan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Big Data: The Link From Dinosaurs to Batman to Small Business

It’s hard to escape the hype around big data these days. From magazines to newspapers to TV, discussions of big data are everywhere. But for the average business or software developer, what does big data mean? What is its promise or potential? The answer depends on the business.

For Google, Facebook and others, big data is intelligence and revenue rolled into one. In cases like the British Museum, it’s about preserving and making freely available a corpus of better than 150 million assets, from maps to musical scores. But even the smallest businesses can begin to use data in new and creative ways.

Consider the case of seasonal retail businesses, such as hardware stores. In years past, store owners manually managed inventory, attempting to anticipate demand for their wares. Today, forward-looking businesses incorporate big data into that decision-making process.

Some turn to predictive algorithms, which are primed with years of inventory data to render better, more accurate projections of demand. Others factor freely available weather data into their inventory predictions. When long-term drought conditions are forecast, as they were prior to this spring, intelligent hardware store owners could lower their inventory of garden hoses and sprinklers and stock the parts necessary for deeper wells that may be dug.

And it goes far beyond internal or general sources, such as weather data. Two years ago the New York Times examined Netflix data to determine which movies were being rented, by neighborhood, in a dozen cities. If you were an entrepreneur looking to open a comic book store, knowing where the fans lived for movies like “Batman Begins,” “Captain America” or “Thor” would be invaluable. Or if you were opening a cooking supply store, planning your location and marketing around which boroughs were consumed by Julie and Julia could be a real competitive advantage.

The nonprofit sector can also benefit from big data. U.S. government census data, made available via the open API at www.census.gov, offers insights on poverty and homelessness. The Cornell Program on Applied Demographics, for example, uses the API to layer poverty statistics onto a map. From there, a savvy nonprofit could turn to the ProgrammableWeb’s collection of nonprofit APIs to tap into databases of potential volunteers.

Whatever the business and whatever the industry, there are datasets – some of them very large indeed – that can help make better decisions faster. The key to effectively using big data is to think creatively about how it can be leveraged. Consultants or contractors won’t necessarily see the same possibilities that you will. But keep an open mind, and big data will more than justify its hype.

*This post originally appeared on the Intuit Network.

About Stephen O’Grady: Stephen is an industry analyst and cofounder of RedMonk. He is based in Maine, a frequent traveler, ardent RedSox fan and focused on helping companies understand developers better and, in general, helping developers do what they do best. He is a paid contributor to the Intuit Network.

What We’re Reading: Mobile Check Deposit, ATMs and Mobile Wallets

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.

  • Half of U.S. Consumers Would Use a Mobile Wallet: Survey

American Banker

Emerging mobile wallets may pose a bigger risk to banks than many realize. Nearly half of U.S. consumers are interested in using a mobile wallet to help them manage card payments, and many of those would consider a provider that is not a bank, new survey data from the financial consulting firm Carlisle & Gallagher Consulting Group suggest. Among consumers interested in mobile wallets, 80% said they would consider PayPal as their primary bank if it offered banking services, and 60% said they would consider Google, according to the survey. Apple won over 60% of respondents, even though it does not currently offer a digital wallet.

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  • Monetizing Mobile Check Deposit

American Banker

Winston-Salem, N.C.-based BB&T Corp. may be a super-regional, but the bank’s acquisitive yet conservative deal-making has garnered it national notice in industry and analyst circles. BB&T has in the last 10 years more than doubled its assets to $174.8 billion, making it one of the largest regionals in the world and the 13th largest bank in the U.S. As this once quiet Southeastern bank rises more swiftly to national prominence, it’s working on its mobile offerings. BB&T released April 30 one of the most strongly desired mobile banking features – mobile check deposit – to its retail and business customers.

Read more

  • Mobile Banking: Predicting the Risks

Bank Info Security

Mobile security threats can be managed through testing and strategic risk-mitigation strategies, says Keith Gordon, who oversees authentication and security strategies for Bank of America’s consumer online and mobile banking units. A mobile banking pioneer, Bank of America has come up with some innovative ways to anticipate mobile threats. This top-tier bank has seen its mobile-user base explode, increasing by nearly 3 million users in the last 12 months. It now has more than 10 million mobile users.

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  • Long Live the ATM: Automated Teller Machines Are Still An Important Delivery Channel for Banks

Bank Systems & Technology

The automated teller machine may not be as hot as other banking channels, such as mobile, but the ATM remains a critical component of banks’ multichannel delivery strategies. Perhaps because they’ve been around for more than 40 years, ATMs just don’t garner the excitement of newer channels, such as mobile. But the ubiquitous ATM — used by 85 percent of consumers, according to a recent Mercator Advisory Group report — is still delivery channel royalty. Even as banks introduce and build out new delivery channels, ATMs will remain an important part of the mix, notes Ken Patterson, VP of research operations and director, credit advisory service, for Maynard, Mass.-based Mercator Advisory Services.

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  • Prepare for “smartphonatics”

Fierce Finance IT

What do you call someone who is a fanatic about their smarrtphone? Aite has dubbed this group “smartphonatics.” The research outfit coined the term after looking at mobile banking and payment adoption in 14 countries. It describes this group “as people who change their shopping, financial and payment behavior as a result of owning a smartphone. The report makes the claim that Smartphonatics’ behavior is shaping consumer needs and requirements for mobile payment and banking solutions, and sets the bar for how financial institutions and retailers will have to respond over the next five years to stay competitive.”

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  • 5 Ways Banking is Changing Fast

Go Banking Rates

When bank ATMs first started appearing in the U.S. some 40 years ago, they were hard to miss. Recent innovations have been much more stealthy — but just as groundbreaking. In case you’ve missed them, here are five contemporary, cutting-edge technologies that are quickly changing banking: Online Banks: The advent of the internet has not only given people the opportunity to bank online, it’s also presented banks with the opportunity to serve customers online exclusively — as in, without brick-and-mortar branches. Mobile Banking: Download a bank’s mobile app onto your smartphone and you can do your banking on the go. Common mobile features include allowing you to check your balance, view recent transactions, transfer money between accounts and find ATMs.

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  • On Campus, New Deals With Banks

New York Times

College campuses have long been attractive hunting grounds for financial institutions looking for new customers. In recent years, however, their efforts to woo students have gotten banks and other financial institutions in trouble with regulators. They are now effectively prohibited from providing gifts to students who sign up for credit cards. And the colleges themselves can no longer be paid by the lenders to steer students to student loans.

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What We’re Reading: Corporate Mobile Banking, Mobile Banking in 2012 and Virtual ATMs

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.

  • A revolution coming in corporate mobile banking

ABA Banking Journal

The corporate mobile banking market has matured quite a bit, and a slew of new devices, cheaper data plans, and faster networks are upon us. Business mobile users have the opportunity to take advantage of rich and powerful mobile banking services, provided their bank has an offering, according to a recent report from Celent. Adoption of corporate mobile banking solutions has clearly been slow moving. It’s going to be an uphill climb to bring more banks on board. It’s still a question of matching up client demands, IT budgets, and product prioritizations.

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  • Firms Plan to Boost IT Spending for Customer-Facing Tools

American Banker

Advisors seeking better client communication tools are likely to have their wish come true. Wealth managers indicated in a survey report from Celent that they are likely to add or enhance client relationship management systems and client-reporting and client-facing technology tools within the next two years. Advisors want to communicate better with clients, said Alexander Camargo, an analyst at Celent and co-author of the report on wealth management IT spending. “The new tools being developed allow advisors to gain insight into clients” and achieve a better picture of their wealth, he said in an interview. ”

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  • Using recess power, Obama putting Cordray in job

Associated Press

In a defiant display of executive power, President Barack Obama on Wednesday will buck GOP opposition and name Richard Cordray as the nation’s chief consumer watchdog. Outraged Republican leaders in Congress suggested that courts would determine the appointment was illegal. With a director in place, the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau can start overseeing the mortgage companies, payday lenders, debt collectors and other financial operations often blamed for practices that helped tank the economy. Even before Obama announced the move in an appearance in Ohio, Cordray said he would begin work right away.

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  • Last Year Witnessed a Mobile Banking Lift Off

Credit Union Times

In the span of just 12 months, a revolution in financial transactions has occurred. Mobile banking has shifted from nice to have to must have at credit unions across the country as a stampede of institutions have embraced the idea that members demand the convenience of banking from the palm of their hands. “About 3,000 of some 14,000 banks and credit unions in the country now offer mobile banking,” said Drew Sievers, CEO of mobile banking apps developer mFoundry. “We sell mobile banking to a new financial institution every 26 hours.” At Fiserv, Kelly Rodriguez, director of strategy, sees similar penetration, “About 30% of credit unions now offer some form of mobile banking.

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  • New law would make it easier to switch banks

CBS News

Switching banks is something a lot of people resolved to do last year because of new fees and being fed up with banks’ behaviors. Even so, a lot of people didn’t switch because of all the hassle involved. Now, just as the banks look to be raising fees again, a new law in Congress would make it easier to switch banks by letting you keep your account number — just like you can now keep your phone number. While Bank of America (BAC) and other major banks backed down over plans to charge a fee just for having a debit card, other fees look to be on their way.

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  • Diebold Virtualizes ATMs To Secure Banking Data

InformationWeek

Diebold seeks to close vulnerabilities by moving customer data off physical machines onto virtualized ATMs on protected data center servers. Automatic teller machine maker Diebold has taken a novel approach to protecting bank customer data: virtualization. Virtualized ATMs store all customer data on central servers, rather than the ATM itself, making it difficult for criminals to steal data from the machines. In places including Brazil, customer data has been at risk when thieves pulled or dynamited ATMs out of their settings and drove off with them. With threats increasing worldwide at many retail points of sale, such as supermarket checkout counters and service station gas pumps, Diebold needed to guarantee the security of customer data entered at the 50,000 ATMs that it manages.

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  • Survey of mobile insiders says financial companies to define mobile payments

Mobile Payments Today

Industry analyst Chetan Sharma has published his annual survey of mobile industry insiders. Sharma solicited the opinions of 150 mobile execs, developers and “insiders,” to gauge what areas to watch in 2012. In many ways, the results of the 2012 survey look similar to 2011′s results, with mobile payments and mobile commerce once again chosen by panelists as the “breakthrough categories” for 2012. Nearly 60 percent of those surveyed said mobile payments would experience a breakthrough this year, and 40 percent said the same for mobile commerce. Of the companies involved in mobile payments, nearly 40 percent of respondents said financial companies will continue to define the space, up from slightly more than 30 percent last year.

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What We’re Reading: Mobile Bill Pay, Going Green, ATM Technology and Digital Wallets

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.

  • Young Adults Trust Banks More Than Other Mobile Payment Providers

American Banker

Young, tech-savvy adults may be the quickest to embrace new technology, but don’t bet on them trusting social media sites or funky startups with their cash. Banks win out easily, at least for now. A new study from Market Strategies International suggests young adults are more likely than any other group to trust banks more than alternative payment providers when it comes to emerging mobile-payment services. “We tested the hypothesis that younger folks who are quick to adopt new technology and are willing to put their entire lives in Facebook trust these alternative providers more than they do banks, and found no support for that theory,” says Mark Willard, senior vice president and head of Market Strategies’ financial services division.

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  • Wells Fargo Ties Customer Relationship Management to Its ATMs

American Banker

Wells Fargo has long been an early adopter of new ATM technology — it was the first bank to convert paper check deposits to images, and last year became the first banks to allow simultaneous “mixed media” deposits of cash and checks. It recently finished one of its older projects — allowing “no envelope” deposits at all 12,000 of its ATMs, an upgrade that took the better part of the past decade. The end of the migration means the entire fleet is enabled to sort, count, verify and make cash deposits available for immediate use. The bank classifies the ATM check deposits made by 9 PM as “same day” deposits, in effect lengthening the banking day. As the bank passed that milestone, ATM chief Alicia Moore spoke with BTN about the other capabilities the bank has added to its huge ATM network, advancements that are designed to improve the machines’ ability to work in concert with other channels.

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  • TD Bank Pledges to Decrease Paper Use

American Banker

TD Bank Group said Tuesday that it is aiming to become “paper neutral” in its North American operations by the end of 2012. TD has the overall goal of reducing its paper use by 20% by 2015. Over the next year, the bank will expand its paperless banking options and other online services for customers. The bank also said that it will partner with the Nature Conservancy of Canada to offset the impact of the paper it uses. The program will work to protect areas of threatened forest habitat. TD’s goal to reduce its paper use comes a year after it became carbon neutral.

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  • Customers opt to stay with big banks to avoid the headaches of switching

Boston Globe

Smaller rivals and anti-Wall Street protesters have launched campaigns to persuade depositors to leave the nation’s largest banks, such as Bank of America, Citigroup Inc. of New York, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. of New York, and Wells Fargo & Co. of San Francisco. But analysts predict the vast majority of customers will stay put. Many appreciate the convenience of vast networks of ATMs and branches and the variety of services offered by the biggest banks. And many like Miller, annoyed as they might be, just don’t want to deal with switching accounts.

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  • Mobile cash transfers gain currency; More banks offer person-to-person money services using email, cellphones

Chicago Tribune

An increasing number of banks are rushing to offer or enhance person-to-person money transfer services. In many instances, all you need to send money to someone is their mobile number or email address. Person-to-person mobile payments are still in their infancy in the United States, with only 4 percent of Web-connected adults using them in 2010, according to a report last month by Forrester Research Inc. But those using the technology are enthusiastic about it: More than half of all mobile person-to-person payment users conduct such transactions at least monthly, and interest has been growing over the past three years, Forrester said.

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  • Six million households paid a bill with a smartphone last year

Into Mobile

Fiserv, a financial and technology solutions company, conducted some really interesting research that showed a significant uptick in the way consumers pay their bills. It turns out that six million Americans have used smartphones to make bill payments in the past year, according to the company’s 2011 Billing Household Survey. This is not only due to the change in how mobile devices operate, but the way all billers have made it easier for customers with destination websites for billing and payment – tailored for last minute and one-time payments. Discussing the survey’s findings, Jardon Bouska, an executive for Fiserv, said: “This year’s Billing Household survey demonstrates that consumers are looking to their banks and billers for multiple billing and payment options that are quick and easy, and can change to meet household needs and expectations.”

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  • War Over the Digital Wallet

Wall Street Journal

The war of the “wallets” is escalating, with two of the biggest names in technology skirmishing over who will control how consumers spend money using their smartphones. Google Inc. said it would bow to a demand by Verizon Wireless, the nation’s largest cellphone operator, and withhold Google’s mobile-payment technology from devices sold by the carrier. While a seemingly small choice, the move shows just how valuable—and disputed—this part of the digital landscape is becoming. Google claims Verizon is blocking its Google Wallet mobile payments app from being pre-loaded on its newest smartphone or being downloaded by consumers themselves.

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Hefty ATM Fees Add to Consumers’ Dissatisfaction

Bank Transfer Day may have passed, but consumers are still feeling the sting from a variety of bank fees. Most consumers are accustomed to paying ATM fees when withdrawing money at a bank other than their own, but in recent years withdrawal fees have gone up leaving consumers with hefty ATM fees.

Ally Bank recently conducted a survey to see if consumers are aware of how much they pay in ATM fees yearly, and only nine percent of respondents chose the correct answer. To benchmark these numbers, Ally Bank cited research from consulting firm Oliver Wyman. The firm found that Americans spent $7.1 billion in ATM fees in 2010. Ally Bank survey respondents chose answers ranging from $100 million to $2 billion.

Survey respondents were also asked to identify what type of banking fees they feel are acceptable. Here are the top line results:

  • 84 percent of respondents do not believe it is acceptable to charge a fee for checking accounts
  • 79 percent do not believe it is fair to charge a monthly maintenance fee
  • 77 percent do not think it is appropriate to charge an ATM fee

Does your financial institution charge ATM fees, and if so, how do you communicate with customers or members about the fees? Let us know in the comments section below, or Tweet @bankingdotcom.

 

Customer Service, Modern Style

There are always discussions in our industry about how best to build and maintain relationships with customers, and that’s a good thing. Too often, however, it comes down to forcing a choice between rethinking the branch approach and relying heavily on online and mobile technologies. That’s actually no choice at all—we have to make them work together.

First, let’s acknowledge that despite shrinking numbers, the branch isn’t exactly going away anytime soon. Sure, a whopping 80% of retail banking transactions are now conducted through self-service channels, admittedly including ATMs and voice-driven instructions. However, it also appears that a majority of retail customers now visit the branch at least once every six months.  Those face-to-face interactions are surely important for long-term relationships.

That‘s why, on this blog, we’ve often admired alternative approaches to branch banking. Some institutions have introduced innovations such as teller pods and community rooms, while others have become interchangeable with event spaces with cocktail lounges.  Odd as all this sounds, especially out of context, it’s exactly the sort of new thinking the industry needs to keep customers coming in.

There are plenty of other good ideas in this vein. For example, one institution getting positive interest is Umpqua Bank, which launched over 60 years ago in Portland, Ore., and has since spread quite wide. The concept behind its operation—it calls its outlets ‘stores,’ and goes very far in making the personal experience quite personal—has since been adopted by much larger corporations.

Here’s one sign of its success: Umpqua has gone from four branches in the mid-’90s to 400 ‘stores’ today. There are numerous stories of its commitment to customer service, and it hosts ‘business therapy’ sessions at its stores. (The jokes about the connection to the IFC network comedy show Portlandia virtually write themselves.) This is down-home banking with a billion-dollar payoff.

On the flip side of the equation—but not really, and that’s the point—is the relentless focus on digital tools that ease the banking experience for every customer, regardless of the complexity involved. For example, as mobile banking increasingly becomes the norm, there is ongoing debate about how to develop a mobile web presence to match the flurry of mobile apps. In particular, has the institution done its job if the mobile app links to a ‘traditional’ website, or should there a mobile-specific site option?

To many consumers, this is a discussion that belongs firmly in geek world. For financial services professionals, however, it could spell the difference between success and failure. One potential problem here is a factor that’s always been considered a luxury, the wealth of options. Google alone supports no less than three smartphone-optimized site configurations, and it’s unquestionably a critical differentiation. Add in the other complications: a broader range of forms factor and even operating systems than ever before, the staggering variety  of customized mobile apps (some heavily customized for specific technologies, others with only a mobile wrapping), and of course, the varying levels of technological sophistication involved.

It’s easy to assume that everyone has a smartphone, since everyone we know seems to have one. And yet, according to the Pew Internet Research Project, the reality is very different. As of January 2014, 90% of American adults have a cell phone, yet only 58% of have a smartphone. Yes, that’s not too far over half, which means that a great many consumers can’t get e-mails, receive promotional messages, download custom apps or conduct financial transactions via the phone.

And finally, there’s this. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we will do it—as consumers we’re fickle, and so are our tastes and habits. We might be notified of a possibility via the phone, follow up later on the PC, ask someone about it at the branch because we’re in the vicinity, then complete the deal on the ATM. You might call it human behavior, but in our industry it’s come to be described as omnichannel banking.

It’s not about the branch or the app, per se. It’s about developing options for each customer-facing channel as it becomes available, then ensuring that they all work together seamlessly. That means it will be increasingly difficult at the back end, but it should be increasingly simple at the front end, for customers. That’s the only way to offer true service.

Banking on Social Change – The Y Factor

If there was ever doubt that banking can be a force remarkable social change, just take a look at some recent events in India. In a way, it’s a case study in extremes; in another, its represents fundamental cultural shifts.

In October of last year, Arundhati Bhattacharya was appointed Chairperson of the State Bank of India (SBI). It’s a post that holds enormous power: The government-owned institution is the nation’s largest by assets, has 15,000-plus branches and in fact manages more than 20% of all banking assets in the country. The fact that she was the first woman in this position should not have been remarkable—she was long considered a top contender for the post, having previously served as CFO.

Portrait of a young attractive business woman.Moreover, the Indian banking industry has been far more open to women executives that most others, and there’s now a high-profile roster of women in senior positions. The thinking is that unlike industries such as manufacturing, where there’s a shop floor with more patriarchal attitudes, banking is a field where intellectual capital is prized and technology-driven change is rampant. These factors contribute to a more modern atmosphere.

But then, just a short time after the not-so-groundbreaking appointment at SBI, Bharatiya Mahila Bank launched in Mumbai and six other Indian cities.  A small startup like this would not be particularly newsworthy except for one factor: It’s for women only.

The institution, which claims 23 branches around the country and plans to open up to 60 more this year alone, is designed to offer economic empowerment to women, with special attention devoted to deprived, under-banked and unbanked areas to ensure sustainable growth. For the record, well over a third of the country is unbanked, and in many rural areas the circumstances for women are even more difficult. All of the new bank’s directors are women, as are most senior executives and employees, and the hope is that those who need loans the most will feel more comfortable asking for them in this environment.

The sad irony is that no one doubts the need for such an institution. The dichotomy is obvious: Even as a succession of high-achieving women climbing the highest rungs of the industry’s ladders, many other women find it hard to access the basic financial resources they desperately need, and a somewhat discriminatory option like this is the best and perhaps only way to help fix the imbalance.

And there’s another factor that might seem incongruous. The foundation for the bank, which is created to take on traditional problems that should no longer exist, is very 21st century. The regional subsidiaries of FIS Global is providing the bank’s technology, which includes core banking, eBanking, and debit card and ATM servicing and processing.

Under the terms of the multi-year agreement, FIS provides a fully integrated banking and payments platform through an outsourced delivery model encompassing core banking, channels, trade finance and the entire suite of payments services, which includes switching, debit card management services and ATM management. The company set up and manages data centers, deploying and managing the branch technology infrastructure. For its part, the bank is building on a strategy that incorporates satellite and ultra-small mobile branches in addition to the conventional ones being put in place.

Banking, technology and social change—it makes for a heady mix, but a good one.