The convenience of not requiring consumers to sign up for Web banking in order to access information electronically literally hits home for Allison Landers.

"I find myself not wanting to have to power up my laptop sometimes at night if I want to get information," says Landers, SVP of the online and mobile channel at KeyBank, which recently extended mobile phone banking to non-Web banking customers, a move that allows the bank to offer a low-cost automated financial services channel to consumers that use mobile devices more than PCs. "Mobile penetration is so much greater than PC penetration. Pretty much everybody has a phone but not everybody has a PC," Landers says.

KeyBank, whose text messaging vendor is M-Com/Fiserv and who developed its mobile browser and Blackberry app capabilities in house, launched mobile banking last year. A recent upgrade allows non-online banking customers with checking, savings,HSA, cash reserve credit, personal loans and lines, CDs and commercial loan accounts and other products to check account balances, view recent account activity and receive alerts through an SMS-enabled mobile device, which Landers says is available on most mobile phones. The bank hasn't launched a marketing campaigned tied to "offline" mobile banking beyond some ads on its Website and in branches. Neither has it released specific adoption numbers for non-Web banking mobile customers, though Landers says there is interest among the bank's consumers.

As mobile matures and becomes a distinct channel, more banks are considering offering mobile banking to offline customers, which include older people and other demographic groups that didn't fully embrace the Web but use mobile phones. The simplicity of text banking-no account identification information is exchanged-is a lure.

"We want to be able to offer customers flexibility, it's a philosophy to deliver customers those products in a way that they want," says Angelo Valetta, SVP and CIO of Sun National Bank, an mFoundry client which plans to offer mobile banking to non-Web banking consumers by December. It recently introduced Sun on Hand, enabling consumers to access mobile banking via text messaging, mobile Web browser and mobile applications for use on the phone, iPod Touch, Blackberry and other devices.

The size of the phone only mobile market isn't clear, but the numbers that are available suggest substantial potential. George Tubin, a research director for TowerGroup, says his firm estimates about 45% of U.S. households bank online, yet most people have a mobile phone.

"Intuitively our members are likely to use the mobile device instead of signing on the PC for access," says Randy Thompson, senior product manger, CO-OP Financial Services, an mFoundry client which offers mobile banking to its network of about 1,300 credit unions. Members use their credit union's Website to register for mobile and text banking, but do not have to be Web banking customers and don't need to use the Web after initial registration.

This story has been reprinted with permission from Bank Technology News.

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