HSBC has come under fire from the former head of innovation at rival Lloyds TSB for failing to offer a retail mobile banking service.
Mobile banking has long been touted as a delivery channel with huge potential. Last year Berg Insight predicted take up is set to soar, with the number of people using the technology growing from 20 million in 2008 to 913 million in 2014.
Only last month research outfit Forrester urged banks to update their strategies in preparation of a surge in popularity as Europe sees increased smartphone adoption.
Yet, alone among the UK's major banks, HSBC offers no retail mobile service at all, prompting James Gardner, now CTO at the Department for Work and Pensions, to ask on his blog: "What is going on HSBC?"
Gardner is an HSBC customer and insists he is a fan of the bank's Premier account and Internet service but suggests the bank is making a big mistake in not gaining experience in the mobile area while it is still relatively new.
He cites the example set by NatWest, which is the only UK bank to so far introduce an iPhone app. Gardner says that the NatWest app is not particularly impressive or rich in functionality but this is not the point.
"Shoving a poor application out the door - like NatWest have done - is teaching them valuable lessons about how customers like to use mobile."
In addition, by introducing the service ahead of its competitors, NatWest is building a relatively small but committed, loyal and important customer base of early adopters.
"Typically, somewhere between 15% and 18% of any audience will bother trying something new - but they're the ones that will tell everyone else about their experiences. Recruitment of these people is the key to building a base," says Gardner.
This argument chimes with that of Forrester analyst Alexander Hesse, who recently asserted: "Banks need to decide whether they want to be a mobile banking leader or a follower."
Gardner speculates that HSBC has fundamentally misunderstood the way mobile banking should be approached: "I'll bet that someone, somewhere, has decided that mobile is strategic, and therefore a global, multi-market solution is needed. I'd guess the whole mobile thing is so strategic to everyone that a big-bang approach seems the only way to make a splash."
This "big bang" attitude is mistaken he argues and an incremental approach that builds up a customer base and provides experience is more sensible, particularly when an iPhone app can be built for "practically nothing".
In response to Gardner's comments, HSBC has provided Finextra with the following statement: "As a founder member of the international Mobey Forum (which advocates and socialises the use of mobiles in banking), we are firmly aware of what others around the world have been and are developing in this space and have been trialling a number of different services and applications around the world.
"Both first direct and HSBC already offer simple alerts and account balance information via mobiles, as well as mobile friendly websites to personal and business customers, but we know that we have even more to do in this regard. We have several projects well underway, at both UK and global levels, that should meet the growing expectations of our mobile customers.
"That mobile banking will accelerate rapidly is widely accepted, but we have first been building the right local and global controls to make sure we deliver a secure customer-centric mobile service, rather than simply re-packaging existing service on a mobile."