Mobile banking threat to ATM supremacy in Australia

End of ATM supremacy in Australia?

More customers could deal with their bank via smartphone or tablet application than via the ATM network by the end of 2013, if the current adoption rate of mobile apps continues, according to one of St George Bank’s top technology executives.

St George’s head of mobile, Travis Tyler, said once successful tap-and-go smartphone payment trials underway across the Westpac group are opened up to all customers, he believes mobile will become the most common way for customers to deal with the bank.

Mobile banking customers are increasingly important to banks as they log in to their accounts more frequently due to ease of access and therefore give the banks more opportunity to sell them new products and learn more about their habits.

“In the next 12 months we see mobile as being the biggest interaction point with our customers, probably outside of ATMs. But I also think there is a chance, once we do payments, that it will exceed ATMs as well,” Mr Tyler said.

The bank’s payment trials are already fairly well advanced and are basically designed to let customers replace their wallets with smartphones, using a near field communication (NFC) chip in the phone to tap on payment terminal to complete transactions.

The payments trial has so far been limited to Samsung Galaxy III phones, which run on Google’s Android operating system. The iPhone was not considered for the trial as it doesn’t yet contain an NFC chip. Both Mr Tyler and Mr Boye-Moller have been critical of Apple’s decision to omit NFC chips, but Mr Tyler said the bank would be focusing more on Android-based phones in future anyway.

Data released in December by research firm Telsyte showed Australian sales of devices running on Google’s Android operating system overtaking Apple’s iOS for the first time. This trend was leading banks to ditch their policies of releasing apps for Apple products before developing for Android devices.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia initially launched its high profile mobile Kaching app on iPhone, some time before an Android version was developed. The bank’s tech chief Michael Harte said that as the smartphone scene had evolved, CBA’s approach to product development had kept pace.

“In the long game we are device independent, carrier independent and channel independent, because the customer is going to use whichever device they choose,” Mr Harte said.

“We have an obligation to provide services across a variety of networks and all devices, because it is a customer’s prerogative who they want to partner with, we are independent.”

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