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Mobile banking on the increase

17 November 2009

More South African banking customers now turn to their mobile phones rather than their personal computers for services ranging from balance inquiries to account payments, new research by World Wide Worx finds.

According to the consumer phase of World Wide Worx's Mobility 2009 report, backed by First National Bank and BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion (RIM), a quarter of SA bank customers turn to their cellphones for informational and financial transactions.

The report is being conducted in four phases, with the first three looking at the use of mobile technologies by small and medium enterprises, consumers and corporations, and the final phase exploring the mobile internet.

Beyond voice and text

According to a statement by World Wide Worx earlier this month, the second phase revealed that while 16% of banking customers in South Africa use the internet for banking, 28% use their cellphones, and a total of 34% of banking customers use one or both of these channels.

"The fact that services like cellphone banking are taking off so strongly shows that consumers no longer see their cellphones only as voice and text messaging devices, but use them stay in touch with everything that matters in their business and personal lives," said RIM regional director Deon Liebenberg.

Growth drivers, security concerns

The study revealed that the main services driving cellphone banking were balance inquiries and notifications of transactions, with three-quarters of mobile phone bankers using these features. Just under half view statements on their mobile phones, 35% transfer between accounts, and 28% pay accounts on their cellphones.

In contrast, only 8% add beneficiaries via the cellphone, indicating both security concerns and set-up issues.

"Our research shows that South Africans are becoming comfortable with cellphone banking, but precisely half of general banking customers are still nervous of it, citing trust as their major concern," said MD of World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck.

"However, this concern must be seen in the light of 34% also saying the issue is not knowing how to use the service."

At the same time, two-thirds of cellphone banking users were satisfied with the security of the channel. This suggests that, once customers start using cellphone banking, they grow increasingly confident in both security and usability aspects.

"We have seen this rapid adoption driven by our menu service, although I believe that WAP will start to play a more important role in future," said FNB mCommerce CEO Len Pienaar.

Strong demand for services

According to Liebenberg, the success of cellphone banking shows that there is a strong demand in South Africa for powerful and easy to use mobile data services and applications that help people to save time and stay in control of their lives at all times.

"With mobile penetration at more than 114% in South Africa, we can expect to see the adoption of mobile banking and other personal services and applications ramp up quickly," he said.

The study also shows purchasing via the cellphone beginning to take off, with 24% of cellphone banking customers purchasing prepaid electricity and 21% making general purchases like movie tickets and flowers. Purchase of airtime still leads the way here, accounting for 61% of cellphone banking users.

Mobility 2009 included research among 1 000 consumers in metropolitan areas, 1 000 SMEs and 240 large enterprises in South Africa.

SAinfo reporter

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