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Canadian Banks Look to Smartphones for Mobile Banking's Future


USAA's iPhone check
depositing service

The growing popularity of smartphones in Canada is expected to drive more mobile banking by customers that hope to replicate online banking habits on a more flexible platform: checking balances, transferring cash and paying bills.

RBC and Scotiabank already offer such services, and argue smartphones are crucial to mass adoption. One setback to growth lies in lack of mobile web access by a number of Canadians.

"We're seeing interest in this area growing now as smartphones become the norm," said SVP-Sales/Service Mike Henry of Scotiabank.

And while naysayers, such as Forrester analyst Emmett Higdon, argue mobile banking won't entirelyr replace the online banking experience because of screen size, convenience and availability may significantly change behavior. A smartphone is "in their pocket, it's available any time, anywhere,” Higdon admitted.

Director-Mobile Channel Devin Sawyer of RBC observed younger consumers will push adoption. Most smartphone users have grown accustomed to an "untethered lifestyle" that divorces them from their desks and computers, he said.

"This younger generation is born to the view that there is no limit as to what a smartphone can do. So they will have an expectation going forward that there is no limit to where online banking can go."

Theories have abounded that in the future, mobile phones will evolve into digital wallets, enabling users to conduct transactions and transfer cash. Japan-based DoCoMo has long enabled users to use phones the way they would credit cards. And US-based bank/insurance firm is aiming to enable users to deposit checks via iPhone.

In the US, about 10% of consumers claim to have used mobile banking.

"Right now, the biggest hurdle quite simply is the mobile banking that's out there is, really, simply duplicating what the customer already has available in many other channels, be that the branch, the ATM and particularly online," Higdon said (via the Canadian Press).

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