Thursday September 25, 2008
Mobile banking the way forward
By DALJIT DHESI
Banks competing for bigger slice of the business
PETALING JAYA: In line with the rapid growth of local mobile subscribers, more banks are actively competing for a larger slice of the mobile banking business.
Banks which have Internet banking services are looking to further enhance this relatively new service while the smaller ones are beginning to look at it more seriously.
A survey by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission revealed that the penetration rate for mobile users in the country for the second quarter was about 90% — double the number of Internet penetration.
The high penetration rate, according to the survey, reaffirmed that mobile phone networks had become an increasingly popular channel for Malaysians to perform a plethora of activities beyond just voice communication and text messaging.
Industry players and analysts concurred that there was a significant level of awareness and usage of mobile phone beyond just as a communication tool and, as such, bodes well as a potential electronic banking channel.
The advantage that mobile banking has over other banking channels is that it enables customers to perform their banking activities anytime and anywhere.
Realising the importance of this service and its potential growth prospects, banks are enhancing and adding more functions to their mobile banking infrastructure.
Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia Bhd (StanChart) country head of consumer banking Ho Toon Bah told StarBiz: “StanChart was the first bank in April to offer smartphone technology mobile banking in the country, underscoring our innovative approach in leveraging technology to bring new products and services to customers.
“Our customers have embraced this new channel of banking at a rapid pace. Almost one-third of our Internet banking customers have signed up for mobile banking and we are confident that this base will grow rapidly as we continue to enhance the range of services and transactions available on this platform.”
He said the bank had recently enhanced its functionalities to cover all individuals’ own account transactions, including fund transfers between their own Standard Chartered accounts, credit card payment and cheque book request.
According to Ho, StanChart was also looking at how the mobile channel could serve and add convenience to its corporate clients.
The group, he said, was developing prototypes of new service models and would quickly release them into the market, instead of waiting for years to come up with a fool-proof model before rolling it out.
Citibank Bhd head of consumer e-business Roy Heong said mobile banking was a key growth strategy for the bank as well as for the group globally. “We are looking into extending account information and bill payments to a bigger base using text messaging.
“We will also target customers who are looking for more functionality via a J2ME (Java Platform Micro Edition) application on Java-enabled devices and leveraging on the third-generation (3G) and General Packet Radio Service infrastructure.
“Importantly, the initiatives proposed must fit into our strategy to ensure high relevance and best-in-class experience for our customers,’’ Heong added.
To enhance its mobile banking channel, OCBC Bank (M) Bhd head of consumer financial services Charles Sik said the bank’s focus now was to promote the service to its existing customers.
“We will seek to help our existing Internet banking users to see the value of using mobile banking and try to reach out to those who might be a little wary of mobile banking through in-branch face-to-face support.
“This way, we believe, those who have been a little hesitant in the beginning will appreciate more quickly why mobile banking really does add depth to the idea of convenience,” he said.
CIMB Bank Bhd last month said it expected about 1.3 million existing CIMB Clicks users and new customers to use its newly-launched mobile banking service. Dubbed “CIMB Clicks Mobile Banking”, it is the first to have Internet banking features and capabilities, compared with other mobile banking services which use SMS to make transactions. CIMB Clicks is the bank’s Internet portal.
Although there are challenges and issues facing the mobile banking, its potential is huge judging from the phenomenal growth and usage of mobile phones.
The three main challenges are the relatively high cost of 3G data services (especially outside Malaysia), the lack of common standards in mobile applications and the limited screen size of the phone.