The mobile banking train hasn’t left the station yet, but time is running low to be considered an early adopter before the service becomes ubiquitous among banks. In the case of Bank of the West, which introduced its new mobile platform in late August, now’s the time to jump in as more banks will likely view mobile as a must-have in the near future. 

“We’ve seen quite a bit of customer demand, and that noise has grown over the past six to eight months, especially as you’re seeing more mass marketing and mass media advertising around mobile banking,” says Matt Macomber, head of the Internet and online banking group at Bank of the West. 

While a number of banks already offer the same mobile services as Bank of the West, in some cases for more than a year, Macomber says Bank of the West was willing to examine early market development and gauge evolving demand before acting. He also says the early offerings are designed to get consumer comfortable with the channel, and will be expanded over time.

 “Mobile banking in general has been a dynamic environment,” Macomber says in discussing the bank’s “wait and see” approach, which became actionable as consumer demand started to spike. “In a year or so, customers will want another way to interact with the bank.”

 The free mobile service, provided by mobile tech vendor Clairmail, is available to Bank of the West’s online banking customers. Through texting, registered customers can sent text commands, such as BAL, to request account balances. Using their phone browser, customers can also use the mobile web to manage their finances at www.botw.com.

 Consumers, who at this point will have to be Web banking customers to enroll, will be given the ability to receive account alerts through text messages, perform transfers between accounts and check balances. Macomber says the service will eventually be available to non-Web banking customers, a strategy being deployed by banks such as Wells Fargo and Keybank, as the mobile channel begins to become distinct from the Internet. 

A dedicated application for the iPhone will be available in September, with other apps on other devices expected to follow.

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