Banks take to the air for mobile customers

Brick and mortar banks are fast catching up with click and go customers. This is driving the need for new, innovative ways for banks to reach customers and stay connected to their information and services needs whilst on the move.

In the year 2000, there were about 60 million internet enabled terminals worldwide, of which two thirds were WAP enabled terminals. By Nokia's estimates, this will increase to about 200 million internet enabled terminals by the end of this year, of which 85 percent are WAP enabled terminals.

They believe that by 2002, there will be more mobile phones connected to the Internet than PCs. If that proves correct, then Bank of America (Asia) and Overseas Union Bank are literally taking to the air at the right time by broadcasting existing banking services to within reach of the mobile consumer. Bank of America (Asia) going the WAP way

Since 7 June, customers of Bank of America (Asia) in Hong Kong have been enjoying the full range of banking services being offered... through their WAP-enabled phones that is.

By accessing a WAP enabled cellphone or PDA, banking services which comprise of balance enquiry for savings, checking and multi-currency accounts; portfolio enquiry for securities and mutual fund accounts; among many others, can be accessed.

With the support of Xgate from EdgeMatrix, Bank of America (Asia) became the first in Hong Kong to launched WAP wireless banking service. Mr. Samuel Tsien, President and CEO of Bank of America (Asia) was thrilled, “We can deliver our wireless banking services that are independent of bearer and back-end systems, and thus ensure full end-to-end service security to avoid any possible leak of confidential information during data transmission via a third-party system.?

Described as an advanced multichannel communications server, Xgate, other than being General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) ready, allows mobile services to be accessed by terminal devices such as mobile phones, two-way pagers and PDAs via various digital channels. These channels include WAP, the World Wide Web, SMS, STK (SIM Toolkit) and Instant Messaging protocols.

Bank of America (Asia) have not left out customers who are using PalmOS-based PDAs as well. For customers who own such PDAs, they will be able to access their account and the full range of banking services by visiting the bank’s website and download a copy of WAPman.

WAPman, another product from EdgeMatrix, is a mobile microbrowsers that immediately and instantly empower customers to utilize their mobile banking service. It features support for color images, location-based and multilingual capabilities, and is 128-bit secured by Wireless Transport Layer Security, providing a safe environment through encryption and authentication for mobile transactions. Wireless Buffet

Singapore-based Oversea Union Bank (OUB) has the same idea but using a different partner. Called OUB MobileNet, the wireless banking services were launched to give their customers another choice of accessing services.

"By offering wireless Internet banking services, we're giving our customers the choice of another channel through which to do business with us," says Wong Chit Sieng, OUB's chief information officer.

Using Oracle Portal-to-Go (now known as Oracle9i Application Server Wireless Edition) to power up MobileNet, existing HTML content for the bank's web site can be converted automatically into XML and WML, thus allowing content on the web to be readable by WAP-enabled devices such as PDA or mobile phones.

The quick roll out of the new services--it took OUB only two months from approval to launching the pilot - is attributed to the flexibility of the Oracle9i Application Server Wireless Edition.

According to Chit Sieng, the application not only allows a quick roll out of their services, but also reach all PDAs that can read WAP. Also, it does not restrict OUB's customer to any particular service provider. They are free to choose.

"Oracle Portal-to-Go also allows us to be independent of a telco," continues Chit Sieng. "Some telcos offer WAP services, but they say to the banks that your customers need to be customers of our telcos to use the WAP service. With MobileNet, our customers can choose any telco they want to go with."

In addition, MobileNet allows users to define what WAP services they want. Users will be asked to check off a list of services when they register for MobileNet at OUB's website.

"In that way, our customers get just the information they want," says Chit Sieng. "Again, it's all about giving our customers choices."