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Mobile banking: ease-of-use is more important than trust, really?

I attended a meeting this week with a company called Vasco that works with authentication software. The upshot of this encounter was that I ended up debating the single most important factor governing the adoption of mobile banking services.

I attended a meeting this week with a company called Vasco that works with authentication software. The upshot of this encounter was that I ended up debating the single most important factor governing the adoption of mobile banking services. While I contended that it is ‘trust’ in the security of the service, Vasco says that they think ease-of-use is more important.

Let me explain, the company’s proposition was that if I am using a mobile banking service then there is an implicit level of trust that I must have in my bank in the first place - and that the functionality and usability of the application will be the deciding factor in terms of whether I use it or not.

That’s great, they have some cool authentication tools that produce one-time passwords and they do have a lot of customers. The problem is that I am already sceptical about the robustness of my own bank’s online service and its ability to keep my money safe. God knows they manage to spell my name wrong enough of the time; there are errors and loopholes in their systems for sure.

Even if Vasco’s authentication systems work well which I’m sure they do, how about the fact that ease-of-use isn’t just about how easy their technology is to use; it’s also about the total experience and mobile screens from funky smartphones to BlackBerry’s to PDAs to iPhones just aren’t suited (IMHO) to this kind of application navigation.

Now, this rant has some direction – if Vasco says the biggest market today for this kind of service is South America (seems weird huh?) and the biggest market in terms of potential is India… then don’t these both fall into the developing so-called BRIC countries where low incomes dictate that the old fashioned small screen phone is surely more common than the iPhone. Checking your bank statement on one of those? Are you kidding?

Anyway onto an interesting quote… Vasco says that, “In 2008 on a typical day online there are 26 million Americans performing banking online.”

… and that further, according to Javelin Strategy and Research “In 2008, 27 million US adults will participate in mobile banking.” (that’s all year) … but in 2009, “That number will grow to 47 million.”

The driver behind this growth, so protagonists such as Vasco would have us believe, are technologies in the realm of their authentication techniques that are based around time and event-based response. After being easy to use and secure, mobile banking apps also need to make money for the bank – but presumably that comes directly as a result of ease-of-use.

Vasco’s Digipass for Mobile provides two authentication applications, first of all a response only authentication code and a second application that can either be a challenge/response authentication code or e-signature.

Ultimately, I think that scepticism aside, mobile banking will of course become as much of a reality as ATMs or secure online payments. I still think it may be more of a wider trust factor that governs the way we start to use these technologies though. As much as I might worry about desk based online banking, I console myself with the fact that surely my bank is insured for attacks upon its accounts.

Maybe I’m just a worrier – or maybe I’m just kidding myself.