Banks open up to iPhone, Android as IT consumerization continues

A new report suggests two big banks could soon allow employee-owned iPhones and Android devices, which would mark a new milestone in the spread of IT consumerization.
Written by Jason Hiner, Editor in Chief

In the battle over the consumerization of IT -- employees using their own devices and applications for work tasks -- there has often been what were considered a few safe havens: Government, financial services, and health care. The security and compliance risks were simply too great in those industries to allow consumerization to gain much of a foothold.

However, a new report suggests that two big banks are not only letting Apple iPhones and Android devices in the door in place of the standard-issue BlackBerrys, but are also looking at supporting employee-owned devices.

According to Bloomberg, the IT departments at both JP Morgan Chase and UBS are doing serious tests to prepare for the possibility of allowing bankers to use an iPhone or an Android device rather than a BlackBerry. The Bloomberg report stated:

"JPMorgan is testing for security in batches of a few hundred devices with a decision expected later this year, one of the people familiar with the matter said. JPMorgan would not buy iPhones or Android phones for employees, as it now does with BlackBerrys. Rather, the bank would allow employees to use the devices to send and receive corporate e-mail if they make the purchase themselves, the other person said."

JPMorgan Chase has 220,000 employees worldwide. Meanwhile, Switzerland-based UBS, which as 63,000 employees, is in the same boat, according to Bloomberg:

"UBS doesn't plan to replace the BlackBerrys it issues with iPhones anytime soon, spokesman Jean-Raphael Fontannaz said by telephone from Zurich. Rather, UBS is testing the possibility of allowing employees to use an iPhone or other smartphone to connect to UBS's e-mail system without restricting the private use of the device, he said."

The move to iPhone would not be unprecedented in the financial services industry. In May, Standard Chartered Bank announced that it was migrating 15,000 of its employees from BlackBerry to iPhone.

And, this summer Apple stated that 80% of the Fortune 100 companies had either officially sanctioned the iPhone or were conducting tests.

With these two large banks on the verge of opening up to consumer-owned iPhone and Android handsets, it could mark another milestone in the growing prevalence of IT consumerization. If banks like Chase and UBS are satisfied with the security and compliance of user-owned devices then virtually most organizations could warm up to the idea, other than those that deal with the most sensitive trade secrets or classified information dealing with national security.

This article was originally published on TechRepublic.

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