TD Bank was one of the last top 10 North American financial companies to offer mobile banking, but is hoping to leapfrog the competition by introducing some unusual services.
In May, the Toronto-Dominion Bank unit introduced an application for Apple Inc.'s iPhones. Last week it rolled out versions for Research In Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry and phones that use Google Inc.'s Android operating system.
Joan Dal Bianco, TD's vice president of the online channel, sees a revolution in the potential of smart phones to change how consumers access banking — particularly when banks are able to look beyond providing only traditional financial services.
"Mobile will do more than the Internet did, and do it more rapidly," Dal Bianco said. "It took the Web a decade to take hold. Mobile will take just another year or two."
TD's mobile app covers a lot of the same ground as other banks, such as the ability to view account balances, pay bills, transfer funds and connect to other services such as TD Waterhouse to get market quotes and place trades.
But it also includes an "accident tool kit" app for its insurance business. The tool kit provides information on what to do in case of an auto accident as well as a mobile notepad that tells drivers what information to collect, and automatically records and stores that data, which can later help with insurance claims.
For the bank, it's an early step toward a plan to offer a variety of services that aren't financial service transactions but leverage mobile phones to provide capabilities that consumers find helpful and can associate with the institution. "There's so many options on the mobile device," Dal Bianco said. "We're looking at doing everything we can do in mobile."
TD is developing a number of apps to be used in both Canada and the U.S., such as using mapping technology to find out what houses sold in a particular neighborhood and for what price as well as links to mortgage calculators and text messaging to the bank's loan and customer services staff.
"The App Store has 150,000 apps. There has to be some [others] that fit into mobile banking," said Nick Holland, a senior analyst at Aite Group. For example, he said Yelp and other online directories are sites that banks could leverage for new app ideas.
Other banks are looking for non-financial apps that can become banking opportunities.
Commonwealth Bank of Australia introduced a real estate app for iPhones that allows users to access past sales history data, current property listing and local sales mapped through the handsets. Users can also switch to a list or a bird's eye view to get insights on properties.
Mark Schwanhausser, a senior analyst at Javelin Strategy and Research, says the Commonwealth app is interesting because it allows people to shop for homes in person and be connected to the bank at the same time.
The most common near-term, nonfinancial smart phone technology used by banks is allowing consumers to take photos of checks for deposits, and use GPS to locate branches and automated teller machines.
But both photo and mapping capabilities can be used as part of marketing campaigns and partnerships with retailers.
"You're near a branch, for example, you could get an offer to come in and get a reduced rate on a financial product for the next few hours," said Red Gillen, a senior analyst in Celent's banking group. "Or if you're near a coffee shop, the offer can be, 'If you get a cup of coffee, you get 'x' off of a financial product.' "