Banking to Go: What’s holding Smartphone owners back from banking apps

Smartphone applications have been receiving a lot of buzz lately. Banks are not sitting on the sidelines: according to ABI Research, a technology research firm, the number of US banks offering mobile banking will jump from 245 in 2008 to 614 this year. The supply of mobile banking applications is increasing rapidly, but what does demand look like? Do Smartphone owners want to manage their finances from their phones?

As an avid iPhone user, I frequently surf the new apps in search of anything new or exciting. I never downloaded my bank’s free mobile banking application because I never saw the need to check my account balance or transfer funds while waiting in line for coffee. Apparently, I’m not the only one.

In our quarterly Smartphone Intelligence survey, Compete asked Smartphone owners how they are using their mobile devices to manage finances. Of the people surveyed, 82% do not currently use their mobile device to manage their finances. The chart below shows the most frequently selected responses when we asked these people why they weren’t using mobile banking.

We can see here that 53% of Smartphone owners said that they saw no need to manage their finances from a mobile device, while about a third said they didn’t trust mobile banking security. Other reasons, like concern about the cost of mobile banking, not knowing the service exists, slow Internet connection on their phone, and not having Internet on their phone were less significant for users.

So banks are confronted with two big challenges when it comes to mobile banking: convincing their customers of why they need to bank on their phones as well as building a sense of trust in mobile banking security.

Changing both of these things may just take some time, as it did with online banking, to get people used to the idea and integrate the service into their regular routines. But it will likely also take some marketing on the part of the banks to increase trust in security for mobile transactions and to help customers find ways to try and use the service on a regular basis.

The other day, I downloaded the BofA application to test it out. The app features a simple and user-friendly interface. However, I rarely find myself in a situation where I need to perform a financial transaction, or even find a nearby ATM, from my phone. I might be one of those people the banks need to convince.