The subject of mobile banking has never been too far from the headlines as the new age of technology continues to show no bounds. While banking institutions around the world, and in this instance in France, have invested millions of pounds into mobile banking services there is some debate as to whether the wider public and the wider expat community have actually embraced this new technology and these new services. We therefore thought it would be interesting to take a look at the opinions of expats in France to see whether they have utilised their mobile or smartphones to experience the ever-growing number of mobile banking services.
When you take into account the fact that many of us have our mobile phones to hand 24 hours a day seven days a week is this not the perfect communication tool? If mobile phone companies, Internet service providers and banking institutions are able to put together attractive packages then it seems almost inevitable that more and more of us will do our banking online and more specifically on our mobile phones. So what is holding back this new age in banking services? Are there any specific worries and concerns?
As we touched on above, the very fact that the majority of us have access to our mobile phones 24 hours a day seven days a week makes mobile phones and smartphones the ultimate communication tool of the modern age. The ability to literally access any website, phone anybody and receive a variety of different messages has made mobile communications and mobile devices the centre of the lives of many people. It therefore seems obvious that the banking community would latch onto this idea and look to put together an array of banking services to catch the eye of the consumer. So how successful has this been?
There is no doubt that the ability to literally pick up your phone and access your banking services on the train, on the bus, in the car or perhaps when you have a spare 5 minutes in the office is very attractive to many people. The hustle and bustle of everyday life continues to gather pace and as much as we try it is sometimes difficult to get free time in which to use land-based Internet services or indeed call our local bank. Millions upon millions of pounds have been invested by the banking community over the last few years to put together a safe and secure service which will attract the attention of Internet savvy banking customers.
There are many aspects to take into consideration which include security, reliability, accessibility and indeed the quality of service and it seems that a mixture of these particular elements is holding back usage numbers. It seems almost inevitable that more and more of us will do our banking via mobile Internet services in the future although the transformation en masse from land-based Internet services to mobile-based Internet services is perhaps taking a little longer than expected. Why?
We will now take a look at the answers from the French expat community with regards to the question, how often do you use your mobile or smartphone for mobile banking?
Yes – frequently (15%)
The figure of 15% regarding those who regularly use of mobile Internet banking services is roughly in line with the figure for the overall poll which came in at 15.87%. This therefore indicates that there is movement in the French online banking arena with particular emphasis upon the mobile Internet banking services now on offer. However, when you also take into account the fact that the French mobile communications market is very strong and has worldwide exposure perhaps we may have expected a better uptake of mobile banking services to date?
If we take a step back and look at the situation from a distance, there is no doubt that a 15% take up of those who use mobile banking services on a frequent basis gives a good foundation for the future. This is an area of mobile Internet services which many assume will become commonplace in the future although there is a danger that banking institutions will become complacent and potentially miss out on a major opportunity to encourage customer loyalty and ensure that customer communications are instant 24 hours a day seven days a week.
Yes – occasionally (5%)
We are starting to see a pattern emerging with regards to those who use mobile banking facilities on a frequent basis, occasional basis and not at all. It seems that many expat communities around the world, in this particular instance the French expat community, are either in one camp or another. This would seem to indicate the emergence of a trust factor issue with mobile phone companies, Internet service providers and ultimately the banking community. There are those who trust mobile banking services and there are those who are still a little suspicious about their security, reliability and standard of services.
Over time it seems almost inevitable that we will see more and more people considering mobile banking services although there is still work to be done from the business arena. The longer this process takes the more costly banking services will remain and the larger the cost base of many financial institutions around the world. The Internet is the key to reducing individual banking institution cost bases but it is also the key to introducing new services and new offers to existing customers. Something the banking community is unlikely to let slip through its hands!
No – never (80%)
The figure of 80% with regards to those who never use mobile banking services amongst the French expat community is slightly higher than the overall average for the poll which came in at 73.33%. As we touched on above, it seems as though the banking community, not only in France but also around the world, still has a number of issues to resolve to encourage customer trust and customer satisfaction.
On the flip side of the coin, the number of people who are aware of mobile banking services is well in excess of the 20% who currently use them amongst the French expat community thereby giving us food for thought. Mobile phone companies, Internet service providers and the banking community have made inroads into this particular sector and type of service and still have 80% of the expat community to target in the future. This should translate into significant income in the future and more profits which will be used to improve services, improve delivery methods and fund future research and development. A win-win situation for everyone?
The convenience of mobile banking
If you mention the subject of mobile banking to a variety of different people in the French expat community you will likely receive a number of different responses depending upon their level of Internet savvy and their trust factor in the Internet world. There are a number of issues such as reliability, security and availability which are mentioned on a regular basis but everybody seems to be of the opinion that the convenience of mobile banking is by far and away the largest plus point.
It is the ability to log on to your banking services provider 24 hours a day seven days a week which is attracting the attention of many consumers. Whether you have 5 minutes at work, have a few moments on a long journey on the bus, train or car there is the option to flick open your mobile phone, access your banking services and carry out your regular maintenance. When you also take into account the amount of money which mobile phone companies have invested in worldwide mobile phone networks there are very few developed and developing country in the world which will not give you at least the most basic of mobile Internet access.
One other phenomenon which continues unabated is the closure of many local bank branches by major worldwide institutions that are looking to reduce their cost base. They will do whatever it takes to convert more and more people to the online arena because this reduces their running costs, their base cost and also gives them direct access 24 hours a day, seven days a week to their customers. The more convenient the banks can make mobile Internet banking the more likely people will take up this particular service and while there are still trust factor issues there is no doubt that progress has been made of late.
As we touched on above, the issue of security is never too far away when people are talking about mobile Internet services and in particular highly confidential mobile banking services. Despite the fact that any slight or major glitch with regards to financial websites and financial online services seems to grab the attention of the worldwide media, when you take into account the excessive use of the Internet today these glitches and issues are on the whole very few and far between. True, we have seen a number of major problems this year in countries such as the UK which have often taken banking institutions a number of days to resolve but, again, these are exceptions to the rule.
Even the most ardent of Internet savvy users will still have issues with regards to security despite the fact that mobile phone companies, Internet service providers and banking institutions have invested millions upon millions of pounds to secure their services. The French mobile communication sector is one of the strongest in the world and only recently France Telecom signed off the introduction of 4G mobile Internet services for its Orange operation in the UK. These are services which the likes of France Telecom would not sign off unless they were ultra-confident about the security of the network therefore we should take some degree of comfort from this development.
On the other hand, are we perhaps expecting too much on the security front with regards to the Internet? Despite the fact that technology has advanced exponentially over the last few years and millions upon millions of pounds are thrown into this particular area on an annual basis, no one Internet connection will ever be 100% secure. No landline Internet connection is ever 100% secure, no physical banking service is ever 100% secure so why do we expect mobile Internet services to be foolproof? Mobile phone companies, Internet service providers and banking institution will do all in their power to offer secure services and secure websites but we also have a role to play in protecting our own information and ensuring that the services we use are not compromised in any way.
It is very easy to take for granted developments in the fields of mobile communications but if we take a step back and look at developments over the last 30 years or so we will see the introduction of 1G, 2G, 3G and now 4G mobile Internet access. How many of us can remember the old traditional mobile phones which had no access to the Internet? How many of us can remember the large sized mobile phones which originally appeared in the UK? The reality is that we do take for granted developments in technology and in particular developments in the area of mobile applications. Billions upon billions of pounds have been poured into this particular avenue and while not everything has turned out perfect, there is no doubt that the mobile phone of today is the most significant communication tool ever created.
The French authorities and the French mobile phone companies are very active in the area of developing technology and introducing new services and new systems. France Telecom is one of the largest mobile phone companies in the world and has access to enormous funding which is fully utilised to defend the company’s position at the forefront of the French telecoms market. We will shortly see the roll-out of 4G networks across France, we will shortly see greater security and greater reliability for mobile Internet services and this should in due course lead to further conversions to mobile banking services.
Many people have talked about the benefits of the 4G mobile Internet network although unlike many similar situations in the past this is a network which looks likely to deliver on all promises. We have seen a once-in-a-lifetime collaboration between the major worldwide telecom companies to ensure that 4G networks are rolled out on time and in a controlled manner and the benefits to the underlying consumer will soon become very evident.
At this point in time the mobile phone sector is dominated by the roll-out of 4G Internet services across France. This has been in the planning stage for many years now, enormous amounts of money have been invested in this particular project and slowly but surely it is beginning to come to fruition. However, behind the scenes the major telecom companies around the world, with France Telecom one of the leaders, are looking at the next generation of mobile phone services, mobile Internet capacity and mobile networks. This is an industry which continues to develop, grow, change direction and ultimately the services which we will see in the future will have been meticulously planned many years previous.
There is an air of inevitability with regards to increased use of mobile banking services as consumers, mobile phone companies, Internet service providers and financial institutions come together to confirm the bigger picture. Some believe that banking institutions have been relatively slow on the uptake to promote the advantages of mobile banking and indeed to promote developments in security, reliability and availability. However, as some of the largest banking institutions in the world look to squeeze as much income, profitability and presence out of their mobile Internet operations we will see a greater emphasis on this area of the banking world.
The French mobile telecoms market is dominated by the likes of France Telecom and it seems almost inevitable, bearing in mind the company’s worldwide operations and worldwide experience, that mobile banking will become ever more popular in the future. A number of French mobile phone companies have commented upon the ability to increase charges on the roll-out of 4G services although whether customers will respond positively the in short term, before the network services are proven, remains to be seen.
While some expat communities are showing a distinct difference between those who use mobile banking services frequently, occasionally or not at all, the likes of France, and a number of other expat community around the world, seem to fall into two very distinct camps. Our poll shows that 15% of the expat community in France use mobile services on a frequent basis, 5% occasionally and 80% have never accessed mobile banking services. There is most certainly a foundation for the mobile phone companies, Internet service providers and financial institutions to build upon with 15% already using the service on a regular basis. However, for many companies in France it is the 80% yet to be converted which hold the key to future funding of new technologies, new services and network improvements.