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A 'Building Year' For Mobile Banking

With the credit squeeze poised to slow growth in technology spending across the banking industry for the first time in years, financial institutions will nonetheless continue to explore new models of conducting their business in the online environment, according to research and consulting firm Celent.

Celent had earlier predicted that 2010 will be the year that mobile banking attains a critical mass of customers.

Most of the country's very largest banks—Bank of America, Wachovia, SunTrust, etc.—have already rolled out mobile services. But looking at the top 50, many still have not. That will change next year, Celent said, calling 2008 a "building year" for mobile banking.

Next year, Celent expects most of the top 50 banks to launch some kind of mobile service to make banking applications available on a handset through a variety of channels. To meet the demands of a diverse customer base, banks will make their mobile services available through SMS, a downloadable product or a mobile browser, the firm predicts.

Celent looks for a disparity in the extent of services banks will offer in the coming year, with some offering a full suite of options like bill payment and fund transfers, while others will just test the waters with basic services like balance inquiries.

Of the U.S. households that bank online (currently there are about 46 million), 10 percent will have adopted mobile banking by the end of next year, Celent predicts. The firm did not revise its earlier projection that the number of mobile-banking household will reach 30 percent in 2010.

The firm's research also points to some interesting Web 2.0 possibilities. Banks, heretofore content to hover aloof from the social networking phenomenon, will join the widget parade and start building their own applications for Facebook, MySpace and the others.

Celent is also predicting that more banks will try to build a social and community-oriented dimension into their own Web sites.