First Mover A R.I. Bank Offers Mobile Business Banking

Article excerpt

BUSINESS BANKING IS GOING MOBILE. While banks have long been offering services via a hand-held device to retail customers, the ease and convenience of mobile banking have not been widely available to businesses. Recently, though, there has been an accelerating surge of mobile banking capabilities developed specifically for businesses, driven by greatly improved technology, robust security and--most of all--increasing market demand.

Market demand in conjunction with recent technology and security improvements recently prompted Citizens Bank, Providence, R.I., to become the first financial institution within its 12-state footprint to introduce commercial mobile banking. Here's how the bank went about early adoption.

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Our institution, Citizens Bank (assets: $159 billion), Providence, R.I., recently spoke with more than 1,000 corporate customers--large and small--to ask what banking services they would find most helpful for them in the current challenging economic climate. Overwhelmingly, they told us they want easy-to-use, secure, flexible, intuitive and attractive mobile banking.

As a result, we developed an app called access-MOBILE. Through the app's interface, customers can approve pending transactions, view account history and transaction details, get current-day snapshots and perform intracompany funds transfers and receive alerts and bank mail, with soon-to-be-added features for commercial cards and foreign exchange--all from their mobile devices and in a secure environment.

The greatest technical challenge we faced was building the right user interface. In our conversations with customers, we learned that--to be as quickly and widely adopted as it has been--our mobile banking capability had to be intuitive and easy to use. Our customers simply wanted to download the application and begin to use it, without having to go through a steep learning curve. Departments across the bank--relationship management, product development, technology, R&D, business development, sales and marketing--worked closely together through several iterations of design to ensure we got it right.

We integrated the mobile technology into our ash management online application, known as Money Manager GPS. We took the Money Manager GPS functionality, designed to deliver a comprehensive picture of a customer's cash position, along with the necessary tools to manage cash flow effectively, and delivered it through the mobility of the [Phone, iPad and iTouch. This was the basis of our end-to-end mobile banking solution.

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The promotional campaign

To raise awareness of our new corporate mobile banking capability, we designed and implemented an extensive marketing communications campaign directed to both internal and external audiences.

Specifically, within the bank, we developed a series of newsletters, online communications via our intranet (including links to video demonstrations of the capability), training sessions with relationship bankers and town hall meetings across our geographic footprint to educate and keep our colleagues informed before and following the launch of the application. Externally, our formal marketing communications outreach plan included a tightly integrated program of advertising, direct mail, online communications, media relations and speaking opportunities before banking and customer groups.

Because we had completed benchmark research prior to the development of the app, we were able to measure of the impact of the various marketing techniques on customer adoption rates of the new technology and adapted the specifics of the communications plan over time to monitor its success.

How we've done: rave reviews

The adoption of accessOBILE by our business customers has been quick (within weeks of the launch, 40 percent of the potential market had downloaded the app) and widespread--across all industry segments. …