We don’t need no stinking mobile banking!

So glad to see that everyone can breathe a sigh of relief and ignore SMS/mobile banking. Apparently Forrester research has determined that there is no significant demand for it. (Ron Shevlin, Mobile Banking Boom or Fizzle?; Lisa Hochgraf, Raining on the Mobile Banking Parade; Doug True, Mobile Banking | a Papa John option?)

Phew! I am so relieved to learn that all we have to do in regards to mobile banking is sit on our hands and watch what everyone else does. Nope, no need to be ahead of the curve on this one. Let someone else take the arrows on this, as the president of a 55,000 member credit union told me several months ago not long after I wrote what I really wanted as a banking consumer.

Gosh, and I was worried about the PFM folks like Geezeo, Wesabe, and Mint who have ALREADY built banking/text messaging features into their platforms, and what that means for credit unions. Okay, good to know that we can ignore these PFM’s explosive growth, and that we’re not missing out on an opportunity to engage those younger members we are always wondering why we aren’t connecting with.

Truly, the problem here is one of a generational gap. (Darn it Ron, you’re right, it IS all about generations! 😉 ) The problem is simply this: The current generation of credit union management is not good at text messaging. They either have never done it, or haven’t done it very often, and are thus unskilled in rapid text messaging. Therefore they think that text messaging is a cumbersome communication method (it is, but there are certain things its brilliant for). They have never explored the options available in their cell phones, and don’t understand things like Quick Messages for frequently sent texts. This older generation doesn’t realize how the younger generation is using their cell phones as a central communication device.

So here’s the funny thing about credit unions contemplating offering SMS-banking: There’s nothing to predict or contemplate. PFM services like Geezeo, Mint and Wesabe are ALREADY making it possible on top of YOUR financial institution’s online banking. Don’t believe it? Just sign up on Geezeo right now and see for yourself. Signing up and using Geezeo is quick, free, and easy.

Doug and Lisa — I heart you both beaucoup, and think you are both doing fantastic things for the CU movement. But seriously, calling SMS-banking a niche with little demand is like calling online banking a niche with little demand five or six years ago. Just like personal computers were a niche with little demand in 1983. And that new-fangled television thingy was a niche with little demand in 1959. And automobiles were a niche with little demand in 1908….


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10 Responses to “We don’t need no stinking mobile banking!”

  1. rshevlin Says:

    Morriss — I think you got me wrong. I questioned Tower’s estimates. To me, it’s more a matter of when, not if. I just think Tower’s estimates were too aggressive, for the timeframe.

  2. Morriss Partee Says:

    I hear you Ron. I didn’t have an incredulous reaction when I read your post, it was more about Lisa’s and Doug’s posts. (Although I like Doug’s idea of testing the waters). What really dropped my jaw on the floor was the CEO of a 55,000-member CU saying that he didn’t see any demand or need for it right now, because a “consultant” told him so. I think the problem here is that they aren’t using these technologies themselves, nor seeing how Gen Y AND Gen X LIVES with this technology… I bet half of people under 30 sleep with their cell phones…….errrrrrrr, sleep with their cell phone within arm’s reach. 🙂

    To me, the growth rate question is unimportant. It’s like asking, is the adoption rate meteoric or merely turbo charged?

  3. rshevlin Says:

    ok, Morriss, I hear you too. But the question to ask isn’t “is there demand for it, today or in the future?” — it’s “where’s the best place to put our next $ of investment?” And mobile banking may not be the answer to that question.

  4. Tony Mannor Says:

    Holy cow! I read the first few sentences and nearly fell off my chair. The funny thing about technology, is that unless you are knee deep in it on the daily basis, you don’t fully understand the potential.

    My Mom, an avid texter on her blackberry pearl, is late 40ish to early 50ish (said for her benefit)

    My Dad, (8 years older than my mom) also a blackberry user, can’t stand the “Texting Thing”. However, he did think it was cool that I sent him baby pictures from the hospital.

    Neither of these people are very computer savvy. They can chat online and print out pages – but that is about the limit of their comp8uter skills.

    8 years of a difference. Sometimes I forget how significant that is. I am 33 and one of my designers is 25. I swear she looks at me sometimes like she is sizing me up for a walker or orthopedic shoes. Then I show her something on her computer or with photoshop and I get a few cool points back.

    It’s hard to hang with the “In-Crowd”. It is something I have to devote serious time doing. But one thing is for certain, SMS is the future, until something cooler comes along.

    Take it from a guy who sleeps closer his Treo than he does his wife.

  5. George Pasley Says:

    I too believe it is a matter of when, not if. I’m currently leading the information gathering for mobile banking at our FI. What I have learned has opened my eyes in this area. I’m still convinced that a WAP solution is a waste of money in the long term. SMS and/or a mobile app seem to be the way to go long term. A survey we had pretty much lined up with the numbers that Javelin gave as far as cell phone usage goes. About a third of those surveyed would be interested in receiving alerts to their phone. The way I figure it, if one third would like it now, how many more would want it when they actually saw it live and in person…

  6. Lisa Hochgraf Says:

    I think Cathy Graeber’s deeper point (and maybe it’s clearer in the full CUES Tech Port article, which I’ve just sent you, Morriss) was what Ron said earlier in the comments: CUs need to carefully evaluate where they spend their technology dollars–and while sometimes CUs need to lead people to new technology adoption, there might be better things to spend money on today than mobile banking … Now, tomorrow, or the next day …

    Heart you back!

  7. Doug True Says:

    I really think we are on the same page Morriss. What I am trying to communicate is the need for simplicity in this mobile banking space. I am studying the space as much as I can and I am pondering the balance between rich screen design on the mobile device with tons of options and the simplistic route of using SMS to transact business in a way that saves the member time. Many of the vendors I have looked at have fabulous offerings that tend to go the route of the rich screen design. This is why I liked Papa John’s approach to pizza ordering. Make it personal, make it simple. I don’t have to download an app on my mobile device to order a pie and I don’t have to go to their web site which takes time and distracts me.

    On a related note, do I need multi-factor authentication to order a pizza through my phone?

  8. Morriss Partee Says:

    Hey Doug, I totally agree… simple, quick, easy, personal is the way to go. There is NO way I would ever add an app to my cell phone to do banking…any vendor who is trying to sell that is a squirrel (to put it kindly). Forget rich screen design and adding apps to a cell phone… the question is: how can I quickly and easily send text messages to get/do what I want? Which right now would start with being able to get account balances and history. Anything much beyond that is wasted. If people want to do rich, full screen stuff on the go, they’ll get an iPhone.

    In regards to your question… I don’t know the answer, but if it’s not quick and easy, people aren’t going to do it. So if MFA gets in the way, then that’s a huge problem.

  9. Charles Bruen Says:


    A credit union manager has to make choices. And the choice to sit on the sidelines for mobile banking is an easy one.

    First, there is no member demand. Sure our average member is well into their forties but these are the members using our services and paying the rent.

    Second, we all have scare resources. These resources are better invested in the current membership. For example, health savings, reverse mortgages and improved convenience. For example, we are spending time and resources developing an instant issue process for plastics. This is a huge undertaking with all kinds of risks but in the end will dramatically improve member service. (Wouldn’t I have liked to had this in place when we cancelled all those debit cards caused by the TJX data breach?)

    Third, we have a lot of work to do to develop youth programs. Teen debit and checking for example. Very few credit unions have developed attractive programs for younger members. I think these basic programs need to be in place before rolling out a mobile banking program.

    Fourth, I’m told and believe that the mobile banking service would present a substantial security risk. I’m not willing to take this risk. Let the pioneers take the arrows.

    Yes, we’ll get to mobile banking just as we have all of our other channels. But not today.

  10. Is the iPhone going to revolutionize banking? « EverythingCU.com World 2.0 Adventure Says:

    […] Ron thinks that there are too many people rushing in to these revolutionary technologies. I actually think it’s the opposite: there are far more people in the financial world who are taking a wait and see attitude than those who are claiming there is a revolution and jumping in feet first. It’s just that the feet-first types are the vocal ones who make the noise and get the attention. Because, really, who wants to admit they are going to take a wait-and-see approach? I give props to Charles Bruen for taking a hard-line wait-and-see stance on mobile banking. […]

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