Cast your mind back to the turn of the century. Once we’d all stopped partying like it was 1999 we entered a new millennium whose first decades were destined to be defined by disruptive technology, social networking and the rise of the World Wide Web.
Back then I was working for a traditional retail bank and traditional retail banks were taking their first baby steps into the world of mobile banking. It wasn’t really called mobile banking back then, it had the catchy name of WAP banking; a term so memorable that not even Wikipedia now has an entry for it.
WAP – Wireless Application Protocol – was once the bleeding edge of mobile banking. The trouble was, whilst it was technically mobile and did involve some banking, it wasn’t exactly customer friendly.
Keen to please as an eager young graduate and curious to learn about mobile banking, I signed up to be part of the WAP trial in my bank. The upside was the free loan of a WAP enabled phone. The downside was the obligation to try and use it to make financial transactions.
In fact, ‘transactions’ probably stretches it a bit. What you actually had to do was set aside about 15 minutes to a. Establish a connection, b. Remember the first of several long, numeric pass codes that not even a savant could remember then c. Check your balance.
You couldn’t actually ‘transact’ using the phone, just simply check how much money had flittered away since the last time you ‘logged on’. And how often did one need to do this? Well, all of us willing volunteers committed to checking our balance via WAP at least three times during the trial- which from memory lasted several months.
Looking back, the writing was on the wall. WAP banking wasn’t convenient, it didn’t actually do much and it made life harder – not easier – for customers. In short, there were queues of people lining up to write it off, and with good reason.
What’s strange, as I write today, is not the speed at which WAP disappeared or its failure to capture the imagination of customers, it’s the fact that some people still seem set on looking at mobile banking in the same way – as a clunky, unnecessary channel that customers don’t, and won’t, use.
That would be fine, were it the truth, but in fact, mobile banking doesn’t simply have a promising future. It is the future. Now.
Last week’s excellent blog from Brett King on finextra put things in perspective but highlighting that “more people made a mobile payment in 2011 than wrote a cheque in developed economies like the US, UK and Australia!” His point is that we all think of cheques as mainstream, so why not mobile banking?
I’d thoroughly recommend reading the whole post but to give you a taste, here’s what Ron Shevlin, Senior Analyst at Aite Group had to say:
“Smartphonatics enthusiastically use their smartphones when they shop for products and services as well as when they interact with their banks. It is quite clear they are an emerging consumer force. Smartphonatics are driving the adoption of mobile banking and payments and will be an agent for change. Financial and retail institutions will need to adapt or risk being left behind.”
Mobile banking is not another WAP trial. It’s the future, it’s the reality. So whether you need a mobile app to help clients track their investments, mobile banking for day to day transactions or simply a mobile enabled website. It’s time to start waking up to reality. The future’s here and the future’s mobile.