Tracking the adoption of mobile banking is like putting human behavior under a microscope…again. In a sense, it’s very much like the adoption of online banking (or online anything else), only on a much faster scale. To some, it’s still odd working with professionals who can’t remember what business was like before the Internet. Imagine how we’ll feel when the colleague in the next cubicle has no memory of life before “there’s an app for that.”
The issue seems to have taken on extra relevance because there’s been a flurry of articles recently about how mobile banking is not being adopted as widely as it should because of security concerns. Even the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is offering tips on safe mobile banking practices.
There’s nothing wrong with good, sensible advice, but maybe we need some perspective here.
First, let’s be clear about the adoption of mobile banking: It’s growing at an astonishing rate. As far back as 2011, an eternity in tech years, research firm Yankee Group projected in its Mobile Money Forecast that global mobile transactions would grow from $241 billion last year to $1 trillion-plus by 2015. That’s a staggering CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 56%–how many other trends can we say that about?
More to the point, the practice continues to grow without huge amounts of education or even promotion. Just a few years ago, the term ‘mobile app’ didn’t even exist; now there are literally millions of them, and most of us are blasé about what we choose to download and use on a regular basis. The mobile device has effectively blurred the distinction between personal and business use and forced our employers to keep up rather than push us to try new software.
Sure, putting money into the mix changes things. It’s one thing to download a video game for playing while on the road and entirely another to use a new button to make an impulse investment or just transfer funds. But what’s remarkable is not how few people do exactly this and more, it’s how many do it every day.
Again, good advice is always welcome, but it’s likely that most of have already heard (perhaps many times over) what the BBB is telling us we should do to protect out investments. Don’t follow links; don’t download authorized applications; keep devices secure. That said, we probably need to keep hearing it.
Where the money is
It used to be said that while Windows PCs got hacked relentlessly, Macintoshes were pretty safe. That’s statistically accurate, and therefore true, but one reason is that the customer base for Apple products was comparatively small. Hackers went after Windows users for the same reason that Willie Sutton allegedly gave for robbing banks: that’s where the money is. Well, guess where the money is now.
There will always be some, from the hyper-cautious to the Luddites, who resist mobile banking. The alternate reality is that there’s already a vast customer base for mobile banking, and they deserve the greatest attention (which is exactly what cyber-criminals are giving them.)
The mobile experience for every human action will continue to evolve and gain in popularity, and banking is no exception. There will be viruses and data breaches, and a few will gain enough of a profile to scare off some potential users. But the technology itself offers too much flexibility, productivity and convenience to completely outweigh the risks.
There’s a downside, and industry professionals need to keep it in mind. It’s our job not to be overwhelmed by the threats but instead focus on keeping the practice as secure as possible. Customers—and there are many of them—need that.
– Banking.com is a blog providing topical and timely insights for the financial services community.