Friday, December 29, 2006

End-user experience

A mobile phone is completely different to the Internet (as it is accessed via a PC). The difference is in terms of the charateristics of the device, the behaviour of the people using it and when and where and by whom it is being used. It is important to consider all of these factors when developing mobile banking solutions.

A mobile phone is different because of a smaller screen, a different keyboard and no (or sometimes an akward) pointing device. So when designing software for mobile phones, one must take these constraints into considerations. Solutions with a lot and superfloues input will not be successful. Many different keystrokes and inputs for exceptions is not a good idea. It is much better to try and deduce values than to expect entry for every value. (For instance, we assume that one primary bank account is associated with one mobile phone and does not require a client to enter a bank account every-time. Not only is it easier to input, but actually more secure - if you think about it).

Another thing to consider is when and why people would want to use mobile phones. Where the Internet works well to browse and to collect a lot of information (for instance when you want to perform a share trade and graphs and information about previous transactions are important - it is probably more suitable to perform these transactions via the Internet). On the other hand people tend to use mobile phones to do a specific transaction only (send a text or make a phone call). Banking transactions in this mould is therefor ideal candidates for mobile banking. (We tend to offer different types of payments of the ability to purchase stuff as typical banking features on mobile phones).

Also consider the typical mobile banking customer. This person often don't have access to the Internet, is very capable in using the mobile phone, but is also time and cost sensitive. It is important to design banking transactions with these customers in mind. Easy to use, low cost, yet powerful and quick transactions are typical candidates.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Mobile Banking Examples

This is the deal: You can have a new bank account right now. You don't have to go into a branch of a bank, fill in a lot of forms, send copies of your last three payslips or explain anything to any-one. You must have a mobile phone and be able to use the phone in the same way as if you were sending a text message.

This is what we have implemented for one of the biggest mobile operators in developing economies. MTN banking is a new generation bank that enable any-one to open a bank account directly on a mobile phone. Oh, you would say this is a play-play bank account. Yet, this is a fully flexed with all functionality bank account. Some of the features that the bank account provides for is the following:

a. A Mastercard credit card linked to the bank account with the ability to withdraw cash at an ATM or purchase goods at any Mastercard outlet.
b. Full EFT capability to enable debit orders and batch payments into the bank account (including SWIFT transactions). You could get your salary to be paid into this account for instance.
c. Full (and advanced) Internet banking where you could move money around and check statements any place in the world. You could also do advanced things (like schedule recurring payments etc.) However, you would need your mobile phone to log into the bank site.
d. On the phone you could send money to any-one else to their existing bank account, their phone or their credit card (in real-time) and with immediate confirmation via text message.
e. You could switch your card on or off via your mobile phone. Amazing feature if you have lost your card and then found it again.
f. By using the phone you can send statements to any fax machine or authorise your personal information to be faxed to some-one (for instance to authorise a debit order with a company)
g. You could pay bills, purchase airtime and pre-paid electricity directly off your phone.

New generation banking, made possible because of the unique characteristics of the mobile phone, already deployed and utilised by more than a 100 000 subscribers. Go and check it out

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Why Mobile Banking is not Internet Banking

The Internet changed banking forever. It is impossible to consider banking without the functionality, the ease of use and the availability that Internet banking brought to the majority of people WITH bank accounts. This was a silent revolution and became prevalent in only a few years. During the 1990's banks started offering rudimentary banking services via Internet sites and early in the 2000 decade this feature was being widely used. The volume of transactions and the monetary value grew dramatically to a point where Internet banking is probably the biggest source of electronic banking transactions. (Credit card transactions may still hold the lead, but is loosing the lead fast).

With the deployment of Mobile banking solutions during 2001, many analysts expected mobile banking to end up as another type of Internet banking deployment. Many bankers expected mobile phones to provide just another "channel" to customers to access the Internet Banking portal. As a matter of fact I have heard many an IT architect in large banks talk of the convergence of channels to be supported by only one means of interacting with your bank. This was of course a big misconception, because mobile banking is fundamentally different to Internet banking and because of the following reasons:

1. The banking alert services that grew to be a major driver of mobile banking in many countries cannot be effectively implemented in an Internet banking paradigm. It is just not possible to send SMS confirmations to Internet users.

2. The security implementations possible with mobile banking is much more advanced (especially if the SIM card is utilised). This is because mobile banking security can be based on keys or certificates - the holy grail of electronic banking very difficult to implement with Internet Banking. The notion of carrying your banking keys in a device that you have with you all the time (your mobile phone) is extremely powerful and enable the deployment of new types of banking solutions never before possible.

3. The immediacy of mobile phones and the fact that it can probably be utilised anywhere (very few places do not have mobile phone coverage), allows for new types of solutions. Some of these solutions can be implemented in conjunction with existing banking operations. (E.g. allow clients to change a PIN on the phone after an ATM transaction, allow clients to block a credit card from a phone, enable a client to authorise access to personal information from the phone etc. etc.)

4. The best mobile banking deployments utilise message-based implementations (rather than session-based implementations which is prevalent in Internet banking). This architecture leads to significant differences in what is possible and how service is to be delivered. I will discuss this in more detail later on.

However, the biggest difference is the access that mobile banking have enabled to banking that have never been the case before. Internet banking enabled people to access their banking electronically only if they had been banked before, whereas mobile banking is leading to a revolution where people are being banked who never had a banking relationship in the past. This is largely because of the utility and functionality that is now being made available to people with cell-phones (which is much more than people with access to the Internet)