Mobile Banking Trends

The Federal Reserve released their fifth installment of the Consumers and Financial Services Reportfor 2016. The survey used for this report was conducted in November 2015 and compares results from previous years’ surveys. The Federal Reserve first issued the report in 2012. As credit unions provide financial services, it is important for them to understand mobile banking trends and long range consumer behaviors, especially as technology continues to impact the way we live and do business.

The key findings from the 2015 survey provided some surprising and not-so-surprising results:

1)  Mobile phones, particularly Internet-enabled smartphones are in widespread use. Obviously, this is not surprising. What was surprising in this finding is that 87% of U.S. adults own a smartphone, which is unchanged since 2013. It appears that adult smartphone use has plateaued.

2)  Adoption of mobile financial services continues to increase. A majority of consumers using these services cite convenience or obtaining a smartphone as their reason for adoption. Forty-three percent of all mobile phone owners with a bank account had used mobile in the previous 12 months. This was a 4% increase from 2014 and-and a 10% increase from 2013. Fifty-three percent of smartphone owners used mobile banking, representing a 1% increase from 2014.

3)  The use of mobile payments continues to lag behind the use of mobile banking. Twenty-four percent of all mobile phone owners reported having made a mobile payment in the previous 12 months. Twenty-eight percent of smartphone owners made a mobile payment during 2015. The three most common mobile payment activities among mobile payments users were bill-pay (65%), making a remote purchase (42%) and paying for something in a store using their mobile phone (33%).

4)  Use of mobile financial services varies across demographic groups. Smartphone ownership is highest among Hispanics in this survey. Higher shares of younger adults (not surprising), Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks reported using mobile banking and mobile payments compared to the survey averages.

5)  Mobile phones are prevalent among unbanked and underbanked consumers. Nine percent of consumers were unbanked at the time of this survey. Forty percent of the unbanked had access to a smartphone. Twenty-two percent of consumers were underbanked (they had a bank account and used one or more alternative financial service). Seventy percent of the underbanked were smart-phone owners and fifty-five percent of the underbanked used mobile banking.

6)  Security and privacy of personal information remain common concerns for mobile phone users. Many consumers reported taking steps to guard against possible risks. The most common actions taken to reduce a security incident included, installing updates (84%), password protecting the phone (70%) and customizing privacy settings (58%). Forty-two percent of mobile phone users surveyed think personal information is “very unsafe” or “somewhat unsafe”.

Having access to quality data can help credit union management decide which technologies make the most sense for investment and future planning. Most obvious is the need for a mobile strategy; if you don’t already have one, it’s time to implement a strategy (mobile banking overtook telephone banking in 2014). If your credit union has been granted an underserved charter, a mobile strategy clearly makes sense. Additionally, understanding that security and privacy are real concerns for your members will help reinforce the need to work with technology providers that take these risks seriously. Security concerns among consumers also underscore the need to publish security policies for your staff and members. Ironically, consumers surveyed in 2015 still preferred physical branches (84%), ATM’s (75%) and online banking (71%) to mobile banking (38%) and telephone banking (30%), which probably isn’t a bad thing considering an in-branch encounter provides opportunities a mobile engagement doesn’t.

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