Financially Mobile: Banking App Users Up 45%

Mobile-MoneyConsumers continue to become more comfortable with banking on mobile devices, according to new data from comScore. About 32.5 million Americans, or 14% of all U.S. mobile users, accessed banking information on their devices in the second quarter -- a 21% increase from the fourth quarter of 2010. The use of mobile apps for banking grew especially fast in the first six months of 2011, jumping 45% to 12.7 million people.

Banking was not the only type of financial service to see stronger mobile uptake in the first half of the year. The number of people getting credit-card information and using auto or property insurance services via mobile was up -- 23% and 19%, respectively. Those checking brokerage or stock data increased 10%.

Still, that means the vast majority of U.S. mobile users aren’t doing any banking or accessing financial services on mobile devices.

Focusing on the growth, however, comScore attributed the gains to wider adoption of smartphones and investments by financial institutions in extending services to the mobile sphere. “New apps and mobile-enhanced sites have made it easier for customers to seek out financial information using mobile devices,” said Sarah Lenart, comScore vice president for marketing solutions.

With tablets and other Web-enabled connected devices gaining popularity in addition to smartphones, the research firm predicts continued growth in mobile banking. 

When it comes to financial services in mobile, the growth is all on the app side. Whereas the number of people turning to apps for banking and credit card services has surged 45% and 43%, respectively, the equivalent growth figures on the mobile browser side are 14% and 17%. That’s partly because the mobile banking population using a browser is already much bigger -- 17.5 million versus 12.7 million on apps. For credit-card information, 10.4 million are using the mobile Web, and 6 million are using apps.

There are also differences in how often people use financial services among different mobile and online methods. For example, 62% of credit-card customers used an app to visit a bank’s Web site at least once a week, compared to 52% who did the same via a mobile browser. In comparison to mobile overall, only 34% checked into their accounts as frequently from a desktop computer. 

“Digitally savvy customers have begun to use mobile and other connected devices such as tablets to engage in online activities that once used to be limited to the computer and are doing so more frequently because of the portability and convenience offered by these devices,” said Lenart.

Balanced against convenience are security concerns, which have been a major factor keeping more people from signing up for mobile banking services to date. While such fears are not unfounded, a Consumer Reports' analysis earlier this year noted that mobile banking builds in a number of redundancies to protect a customer’s information. For instance, banks don't send passcodes or user names via text, and banking apps don't store password or ID information about someone or their account on the phone itself.

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