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S'pore bank sees mobile users doubling

update OCBC says its mobile banking user base and transactions have doubled each year since service debut in 2006, is poised for mainstream adoption.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

update SINGAPORE--The Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation Bank (OCBC) says its mobile banking user base has doubled every year since it launched the service in 2006.

Patrick Chew, head of delivery for consumer financial services at OCBC, said in a press briefing here Friday that mobile banking is moving from its early-adopter base to the mainstream audience.

Transaction volumes have also doubled each year, reflecting increased trust in the security of mobile banking services, said Chew.

He could not specify how many customers were using OCBC's mobile services, but noted that the figure has reached 30 percent of its Internet banking customer base.

The rate of adoption for mobile banking is taking a faster upswing, compared to that of automated teller machines (ATMs) in the 1980s, and Internet banking in the 1990s, he noted.

Chew also said the majority of the bank's mobile users are between the ages of 25 and 45, with 70 percent of them transacting on their phones at least once every two weeks, or more frequently.

While early users turned to mobile banking primarily to perform passive tasks such as checking their bank balances, more users now perform transactions over their phones, including making bills payments, he said. He added that the volume of bill payments has quadrupled each month over the past year.

"More users are managing their cash through their phones, beyond just monitoring bank balances," he said.

In an e-mailed response to ZDNet Asia, Sandeep Lal, managing director and head of consumer e-business at local bank, DBS Bank, said: "We are in an advanced stage of implementing our mBanking [mobile banking] service in Singapore and we intend to lead in the space, too."

Lal added that DBS has an Internet banking customer base covering 1.35 million users.

Citibank launched its mobile service, called Citi Mobile, in Hong Kong toward the end of 2008. It extended this service to Singapore in August last year.

The iPhone touch
Chew also emphasized the impact of the Apple iPhone on the bank's increased mobile banking traffic.

He noted a 10 to 20 percent rise in usage among OCBC customers after SingTel brought the device to Singapore, followed by a similar spike when competing telcos, StarHub and MobileOne, also began offering the iPhone.

While OCBC has made mobile banking available via a Java applet since 2006, the arrival of more smartphones and generous data bundles have helped push mobile banking up, he said.

He added that early banking through mobile phones involved a slower process because of lower data speeds, and faced barriers such as expensive cellular data costs and the need for users to manually configure some phone models to get online. Today, most phones are configured to get online out of the box, said Chew.

In addition, OCBC is eyeing the slate space to continue the ramp up of mobile banking services, he said. Chew's team has plans to import a few sets of the Apple iPad once the product debuts next month, so the bank can perform tests on the device.

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