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The spinning compass of mobile banking

At the Asian Banker Summit in Hong Kong last week, the passion that the banking community displayed to be a leader in innovation and customer experience was very apparent. For the East, the fast adoption of mobile technology is already becoming a game-changing trend and the financial services, especially retail banking, sector has a focus on mobile banking.

It is often highlighted that the benefits of mobile banking to the lesser developed economies in the East is huge, providing the ability to reach far more of the unbanked population. However, while it is true that banks see the potential to spread their net further and encourage more people to adopt banking services via the mobile, what really struck me was the regard for mobile banking as ‘one of many’. There is a strong belief in the power of multi-channel banking in Asia that spans both the developed and developing countries that were represented at the Summit this year.

While this is very good news for the consumers that are increasingly demanding joined up banking services, it is leading to some confusion in the industry about the technology infrastructure that is required to bring new channels to market. I had several conversations with banks in the region that revealed that they needed an internet banking infrastructure in place and its associated login process before they are able to embark on a mobile strategy – very much a channel conflict !!

Although a true multi-channel banking environment is the nirvana of retail banking and there are many benefits that can be achieved, it is a shame that this desire to deliver an integrated banking experience is somewhat at the expense of rolling out sophisticated mobile banking services. Particularly, for example, in those Asian countries where mobile penetration is more open to the masses than internet access.

It will be interesting to chart the success of mobile banking in the East and West in the coming months and see which market emerges as the leader. It certainly seems that the East has the drive and energy behind innovative products and services but with smartphone adoption going through the roof, will the West steal the glory and be the first to deliver mobile banking to the masses?


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