By adding Popmoney person-to-person payments to its primary mobile banking application, PNC Bank is putting the feature where its most tech-savvy customers expect to see it.

Popmoney, a Fiserv person-to-person payments system, was already an option within a separate PNC app for customers of its Virtual Wallet accounts. Virtual Wallet is a series of three linked checking and savings accounts with an online focus, and PNC sometimes tests new technology with Virtual Wallet users before offering it to its wider customer base.

In August, the PNC Mobile app was redesigned to "bring it into the evolving standards of mobile banking," such as offering a services menu listing, says Tom Trebilcock, vice president of digital at Pittsburgh, Pa.-based PNC. Many online banking features are "moving downstream to mobile phones," he adds.

PNC's decision to add Popmoney to PNC Mobile came about from "a groundswell of usage in P2P payments and a groundswell of mobile banking" occurring at the same time, Trebilcock says. Both features have become popular, especially with younger bank customers (up to age 34), he adds.

For PNC, getting Popmoney in a mobile app was akin to "skating to where the puck is going" in terms of what younger customers are doing, Trebilcock says.

"Growth in usage was at 22% per year for Popmoney, and now with mobile, we are expecting 35% year over year," Trebilcock says. "It's a really popular feature," he adds.

Fiserv has linked Popmoney to many more banks since taking over the service as part of its acquisition of CashEdge two years ago. Currently, 1,900 banks and credit unions are part of the Popmoney network, says Tom Roberts, Fiserv's senior vice president of marketing for electronic payments.

In recent years, Brookfield, Wis.-based Fiserv has added an instant payments feature and the ability to request a payment from another user, Roberts says. Fiserv plans to make Popmoney Instant Payments available on mobile devices in November.

"Instant payments adds the capability of settling using debit card networks, and still leverages what the user knows best — their debit card number and their bank account," Roberts says.

Roberts says consumers of all ages use Popmoney, but acknowledges two age groups make up the primary users.

"The largest group is between the ages of 23 and 33," Roberts says. "These are young people who are out of college, have jobs and often have roommates."

That age group is more prone to adopt new technologies of all types more quickly, Roberts says. "And many of them don't rely much on checkbooks," he adds.
The second largest user group is those ages 44 to about 54. "These are harried parents who are digitally active," and are "actively looking for ways to simplify their complicated lives," Roberts says.

Popmoney users can transfer money from their bank account to other people by knowing an account number, e-mail address or phone.

"It's just sending payments, so there is not much from a data entry standpoint, just a few pieces of information," Trebilcock says.

The adoption of online banking and bill payment will see minimal growth over the next five years because online banking is saturated and "cutting-edge consumers are turning to mobile payments," according to a September report from Javelin Strategy & Research.

Javelin calls these customers "digital drifters" because they will go from online banking to mobile if the services offered are attractive and easy to use. Javelin forecasts that 89% of households will use online banking by 2018, a 5% increase over the current 84%.

PNC is on the right track in making its mobile app appeal to the tech-savvy, says Brian Riley, senior research director and analyst with Boston-based CEB TowerGroup.

"PNC is consistently doing nice little things to make it easier for their customers," Riley says. "Popmoney on a mobile app falls into that category."

Two months ago, Citigroup reported a significant boost in Popmoney use after it added the money transfer service to its mobile app.

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