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Posts Tagged ‘Mobile Banking’

Launching a Consumer Mobile Service

September 19, 2012 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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Think Outside the App

What is striking about Qtel’s Mobile Money (Qatar), Celcom’s Aircash (Malaysia) and Dutch Bangla Bank’s (DBBL) Mobile Banking (Bangladesh) for unbanked communities—apart from being Sybase delivered solutions—is that there is no smartphone app involved. These services are accessible from any phone, across SMS, IVR or USSD channels.

In the developed world, we are so accustomed to a mobile service being an app on a smartphone that we sometimes lose sight of the broader, multi-channel requirements for launching a consumer mobile service. This is not to say that a consumer mobile service cannot be driven by an app; it can be and is in most instances in the developed world. But a whole lot of things have to happen behind the scenes for the app to be usable, reliable and responsive. And outside the developed world, consumer mobile services are a different story.

A consumer mobile service needs to be accessible by as many types of phones as possible to reach the maximum number of potential customers—especially when the target markets are unbanked and underbanked populations.

Four Key Technology Requirements
There are four key things to consider when building such a service.

1. Scope Of Channels
Consumer services need to address all the mobile channels (SMS, USSD, IVR, mobile Web and rich client), plus the Web, as there is often a Web element to the service (to handle registration, for example). The Qtel Mobile Money service operates over USSD, and thus is accessible via any phone in Qatar that uses Qtel. The DBBL mobile banking solution uses a combination of SMS and IVR or USSD to complete transactions. And as these markets evolve, the same services can be extended to smartphones.

2. Scale of Service
When launching consumer-facing services, it’s important to plan to scale up to millions of users. The scope of the service is really the entire country in many instances, so the service must be built on a platform that has proven scalability.

3. Support Applications
When organizations think of consumer mobile services in terms of just an app, they often overlook important support applications such as customer registration and a customer portal. Additionally, a customer support organization needs it own portal for agents to answer questions on transactions, block and unblock accounts, update customer details, etc. And of course, an administration portal and an operations dashboard are necessary to manage the service once it’s up and running.

4. Span of Platform Capability
When launching a consumer mobile service it is important to think about the end goal as opposed to the current state when making choices. The temptation is to build an app by hooking into a set of web services exposed by the backend—and keep building more web services and isolated, individual apps in response to each request for additional functionality. Whenever a change has to be made that impacts each of these apps, the cost goes through the roof. And when there is a requirement to address multiple mobile phone channels, significant additional costs come into play.

Updating a backend to accommodate a mobile channel-specific requirement isn’t an easy sell in any IT shop. Thus, to build and launch a consumer mobile service, it is critical to have a mid-tier platform that can handle transactions and channel-specific logic; ensure that you can configure fees, commissions, limits, and restrictions for the different use cases implemented; provide a framework for creating or modifying existing business logic and minimizing the impact on backend systems. And of course, such a mid-tier platform needs to provide a standards-based integration mechanism to backend systems. In the end, the goal is to build out new applications faster than customers’ demands, on a common framework with significant opportunity for reuse.

When attempting to build out a consumer mobile service, the key is to think in terms of the end state, and beyond the idea that you’re making “just an app,” in order to make the proper technology choices

Where’s the Tablet Banking for Business?

June 19, 2012 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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This week’s announcement that Microsoft plans to launch Surface is driving consumer awareness about the proliferation of tablets. Tablet computers are becoming the device of choice for banking on the go. Occupying a sweet spot between a phone and a PC, tablets bring together the ubiquity of a phone with a bigger keyboard and screen, intuitive interface and computing power much closer to that of a laptop—not to mention the camera, geo-location, and several different interaction channels (push notifications, apps and browser). Tablets that are 3G-enabled (about 10 percent of those in the U.S., according to this GigaOM article) also provide GPS, SMS and connectivity almost anywhere they go.

The downside is that online banking web sites, designed for mouse and keyboard, and native mobile apps, designed for small screens, don’t always translate well to tablets’ touch interface and larger screens, creating a poor user experience.

Forward thinking banks (less than 20 percent of the top 25, according to 2012 Tablet and Banking Report, by Javelin Strategy & Research) have already recognized the issue and responded by creating tablet-specific apps for iPad and Android tablets.

Today, most tablet banking apps are for consumers. It makes sense for the moment, as iPad owns the tablet market and consumers are the dominant buyers. But tablets are only getting more popular, and it’s only a matter of time before they’re standard-issue among executives, complementing or completely replacing laptops. There’s a big opportunity right now for banks to differentiate themselves to commercial customers by building web-based or native apps specifically for tablets. Freeing treasurers and CFOs from the PC-based interfaces they’re tethered to today is the promise of tablet banking for the corporate market.

In November 2010, RBS Citizens liberated its corporate banking customers, allowing them to authorize transactions from wherever they happen to be. The bank’s accessMOBILE corporate mobile banking app uses the Sybase 365 Corporate Mobile Banking solution, and runs on iPhone and iPad. Through accessMOBILE, commercial customers can get balance information, check on transfer status, approve and release wire transfers, receive alerts, and receive secure messages. The treasurer or CFO of a small or medium-sized business now doesn’t need to delegate authority for wire approvals. Now, they can perform approvals even while traveling. Enthusiasm and satisfaction have been high enough that RBS is currently planning new versions for Android and BlackBerry.

Although banks have typically been slow to embrace new technology, mobile banking solutions for consumers have been coming out at a good clip. With the advent of tablets and their popularity among the executive set, we should see an even faster movement to mobile for corporate banking functions.

And this is the time for banks to think not in terms of single-point mobile solutions, but instead of a comprehensive mobile platform strategy to mobilize their entire business.

Mobile Commerce: Competition Before Collaboration

April 25, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (3)

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Until recently, the general consensus was that banks, Telcos, merchants and consumers all needed to collaborate before Mobile Commerce (mCommerce) would take off. It was going to be hard, because no one could decide who owned the customer, which business models would work, and which technologies would be the ones to create a lasting ecosystem.

Now we know that the opposite is true. It’s not that everyone has to collaborate before mCommerce would take off. It’s that mCommerce had to take off first, after which the players will engage in some competition to determine who controls what. Following that, we’ll start to see some collaboration.

In the last few years, a few important things happened:

1. Banks began offering mobile banking initiatives.

2. Smartphones, especially iPhone, have been wildly successful in consumer and business markets.

3. Mobile device applications, like those on the Apple’s App Store, have created an opportunity for brands and merchants to connect directly to consumers via the mobile channel.

4. Many merchants started offering their own mCommerce solutions: Amazon, Apple, eBay, Starbucks and Target.

So now the situation is that each ecosystem player is forging ahead with its own mobile commerce plans, especially the merchants. Here’s a remarkable figure: iTunes has at least 200 million customers on file with attached payment instruments. Amazon is attempting to do the same with its Appstore for Android, and will certainly try to leverage its existing base of customers.

So what about the Telcos?
All this time, Telcos in the U.S. market have been relatively quiet, focusing on selling smartphones and their associated plans. They have continued to use PSMS (premium SMS) billing as a means to charge via the phone.

But overall, Telcos, who entered the game with the most number of customers, are now the farthest behind in offering any new mobile payment initiatives. It’s safe to assume they’re hard at work to catch up, given the recent announcement about ISIS, a joint venture between AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon, to launch NFC payments in the U.S.

At this point, the U.S. Telcos really only have three options:

1. They can tackle NFC payments (given they control distribution of phones),

2. Have a mobile wallet offering, and/or

3. Expand the use of billing to the operator’s monthly invoice (which has risks associated with it).

However, success in mCommerce comes from offering compelling services, not competing on yet another payment system. Successful mCommerce ecosystems, such as paybox in Austria, mpass in Germany, which inter-operate among all the Telcos in the country, collaborate on a mobile payment system and compete on offering services to customers.

The Role of Social Networking
As mobile commerce takes off, I think we’ll see social networking involved in some way to grease the wheels of the mCommerce ramp up. All the ecosystem players already have a presence there. Advertisers will move from just advertising to actually selling to consumers by leveraging context and location-based services to offer discounts and personalized services. Social networking could potentially become the arena where merchants sell their wares, banks offer a mechanism to pay, Telcos extend their operator billing, cloud wallets or NFC payments to integrate with social networking, and consumers—already connected via Facebook and other social networking sites—will benefit from the choice of mob
ile payment options.