As part of its digital efforts and strategy, Bank of America introduced its mobile banking strategy in May 2007 to enable its customers to access services through their mobile phones. Through the initiative, the bank's customers can access services via applications on their smartphones, mobile web browser, and short message service (SMS) that was launched few months later. The mobile banking strategy proved to be a huge success since the bank had four million mobile banking customers three years after the launch. The company has continued to receive requests from line-of-business managers to leverage the mobile platform through the development of mobile application functionalities for their respective businesses. However, the financial firm has been hesitant to add complex features to its mobile applications on the basis that it could negatively affect users through slowing down the application.
Strategic Issues and Problems:
Bank of America's mobile banking strategy has been a huge success within three years of its launch as compared to the online banking initiative several years ago because of an adoption rate of approximately eight times. This success is attributed to the increase or growth of the bank's customer base since most of its services are now accessible through various mobile applications. In order to improve the efficiency of its mobile banking systems, Bank of America has continued to implement new mobile capabilities that enable it to widen its reach to additional mobile devices.
The main strategic issue for this financial firm in its banking systems is whether to add complex features to its mobile applications. This has largely been brought by requests by the line-of-business managers who have noticed the success of Bank of America banking system. As the responsible entities for the profitability of their specific businesses, these managers want to leverage the bank's mobile platform through the developing into the mobile application functionalities for their respective businesses.
One of the executives of Bank of America's Mobile Product Development department is hesitant and skeptical regarding such a move arguing that it could make the firm's mobile application complex through addition of more features. According to him, leveraging the mobile platform could not only make the system complex but it can also affect the user experience negatively and slow down the application. The reason for many high-profile failures of mobile applications of various companies in the marketplace is partly attributed to application complexity, which is a huge risk. The other underlying issue in Bank of America's mobile banking system is the uncertainty on whether users are willing and ready to sign up for credit cards or mortgages on their mobile phones. The company needs to be careful in its mobile banking system because its competitors use mobile phone applications as a platform to distinguish themselves.
The vice president of one of the various agencies that were involved in supporting the bank's digital efforts suggested that the bank could develop different applications for various target groups like small businesses customers and Merrill Lynch brokerage. He argued that some financial firms like Wells Fargo and Citi Group have implemented this system in order to provide users with an increasingly customized solution. However, such an initiative is regarded as a costly project because developing applications may require reprioritizing integral bank technology resources from other critical business sectors. Notably, the decision should be made in considerations of its overall impact on growth and the whole financial services industry.
Some of the available options for Bank of America in developing mobile applications include the adopting Citibank's and Chase Group's models. Citibank's mobile banking system enable customers to check their balances, pay bills, and transfer funds as well as to check the balances of the credit cards, pay credit card bills, and track their credit card rewards. In contrast Chase's model provides three services in mobile banking i.e. through the web browser, SMS, and application basic services.
Analysis and Evaluation:
The mobile banking industry and market was launched in America in 2007 as it expanded the features of online banking since its enable customers to access their bank accounts while on the move. Since the inception of this business area, banks have taken mobile banking as a system with which they can distinguish themselves from their rivals and engage their customers. Though it requires new capital investment and cost of operations, mobile banking contributes to higher level of customer engagement that result in increased customer retention and income.
The three major options in the mobile banking industry are mobile Internet, mobile apps, and mobile messaging. While mobile messaging works through SMS's to facilitate checking of account balances and other account activity, the mobile Internet option enables users to be effectively connected with the bank's online website through their phone browsers. On the contrary, mobile apps have developed because of the emergence of smartphones and engage users through specifically designed and optimized user interface.
In the recent years, a wide range of mobile banking models have continued to evolve and differ primarily on the establishment of the relationship with the user and the bank. These mobile banking business models can be divided into three major categories i.e. Bank-Led, Non-Bank Led, and Bank Focused banking models ("Mobile Banking -- The Future," 2007). The bank-led model is an alternative to the traditional branch-based banking since it enables customers to conduct transactions through their phones instead of bank branches and employees. The non-bank led model is where the non-bank agency carries out all the functions and the bank is involved only as a safe-keeper of extra funds. The bank-focused model is where the traditional bank uses non-conventional means to offer affordable banking services to customers.
The mobile banking market in America has continued to grow rapidly in the past several years to the extent that it's expected to have 37 million users by 2014. With the expected increase in the number of mobile banking customers, the total annual transactions of these services is also expected to grow to approximately 2.4 billion within the same period of time. The main reasons for this rapid growth are the increasing awareness among users, improvements in mobile networks and devices, and improved mobile banking features.
Consumer interest in mobile banking is increasing and growing more than the traditional and online banking services because of increased mobile banking solutions due to the ubiquity of stylish mobile devices (Paisner, Castonguay & Collins, 2009). However, several customers have stated that their interest in mobile banking is mainly dependent on the cost of such services, especially if they are free. Similar to many behavior transitions, the early adopters of mobile banking in the America reflect a huge distinct population of high income and tech-savvy people.
Strengths of Bank of America's Mobile Banking:
One of the strengths of its mobile banking strategy is that it has the highest adoption rate as compared to that of its main rivals. The company's mobile banking system is rooted in an understanding of customer experience that was achieved through proprietary research from analysis to launch. The other strength of this mobile banking service is that lessens Bank of America's costs through the reduction of the number of calls to the bank's call centers. Bank of America's mobile banking service has the strength of providing convenience to its customers because of its willingness to invest in a practical mobile banking system ("Mobile Banking Creates Brand Loyalty," n.d.)
Weaknesses of Bank of America's Mobile Banking:
First, the current system and service doesn't allow the interested line-of-business managers to leverage the mobile platform into mobile application functionalities for their respective businesses. Secondly, this service does not provide users with a more customized solution since it doesn't have different apps for different target groups.
Opportunities for Bank of America's Mobile Banking:
In addition to being the main concern of the firm's banking service, the constant calls by line-of-business managers to leverage the mobile platform is a major opportunity that could improve the bank's mobile banking service. The change in distribution for mobile banking application and transition to off-portal world of application stores is an opportunity for the bank to transform its mobile banking service. The other main opportunity is the possibility to reach an increased mobile banking customer base due to the growth of smartphones and application stores in this industry.
Threats to Bank of America's Mobile Banking:
Some of the threats include the bank's mobile banking could provide difficulties in tracking customers' mobile banking transactions because of the evolving nature of phones and use of several third party suppliers with diverse technologies. Secondly, there is a huge concern regarding channel proliferation and its impact on mobile banking customers. Thirdly, the mobile banking faces the threat of difficulties in integration with the current channels though it provides an additional channel to the bank's systems.
Alternative Courses of Action:
As Bank of America continues to constantly receive requests from line-of-business managers about leveraging the mobile platform, it needs to make a decision through the wide consideration of its impact on the…