Mobile banking gains acceptance among CFOs, survey shows

The findings suggest Standard Chartered's two new iPhone applications, one of which is said to be first to enable both cash and trade authorisation, are coming at the right time.

The success of mobile banking services for retail banking is one thing, but to replicate that on the corporate side is quite another. When chief financial officers and treasurers are questioned about the benefits of mobile technology for their business, they are typically noncommittal. Curious perhaps, but they remain unconvinced about the merits of mobile technology due to concerns over security, and are uncomfortable with the idea of authorising potentially large transactions via a small mobile device. Or so the sceptics would have us believe.

However, it turns out that a large number of CFOs and treasurers would, in fact, welcome the technology, and might even be willing to pay for it. At least, so says a new survey from banking technology firm Fundtech, in conjunction with independent research and advisory firm Aite Group.

The survey has just been announced at Sibos, the annual transaction banking conference organised by The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (Swift) held this week in Amsterdam. It found that more than two-thirds of the 300 treasurers surveyed described themselves as at least “somewhat likely” to use corporate mobile banking services, even if only to conduct basic transactions such as checking balances or transferring funds. More than 40% of respondents described themselves as either “likely” or “very likely” to do so. The survey also found that the CFOs who are most receptive to mobile technology work in middle-market firms with annual revenues of up to $10 billion.

Interestingly, over 55% expressed interest in using mobile technology to perform more advanced functions, such as approving transactions and initiating payments. And 49% of the surveyed CFOs said they would be prepared to pay for mobile cash management facilities. If true, this could mean that banks may be able to recoup some of the costs associated with the investment.

 “What was most exciting was the percentage of respondents who would pay for such a service,” Christine Barry, research director at Aite Group and author of the report, said in a statement. “In an environment where banks need to identify innovative new ways in which to attract clients, now may be the right time for banks to consider investing in mobile platforms for their corporate customers.”  

This will be welcome news for Standard Chartered Bank, which has just launched two new iPhone applications for its corporate and financial institution clients. According to the bank, its ‘Mobile Authorisation’ application is the first application for the iPhone that covers authorisation for both cash and trade. The service, which is free for customers and can be accessed through the bank’s existing Straight2Bank application, only allows the treasurer to approve or veto a transaction and cannot be used to instigate new transactions. It uses the same security precautions as found on the website, requiring identification, password and second factor authorisation.  

Meanwhile, the ‘Trade Enquiry Service’ application enables banks using Standard Chartered's letters of credit reissuance programme to get real-time information on their import documents.

“Banks are increasingly looking to programmes like ours to support their growth in Asia,” George Nast, Standard Chartered’s global head of products, transaction banking, said in a statement. “Integrating information and providing ready access to it can make the difference between a standard outsourcing arrangement and a partnership. With this application, which is an industry first, our banks have the information they need to serve their customers as if they were processing the transactions themselves, no matter where they are.”

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