To Boost Mobile Banking Growth Rates, Banks Must Address Consumers’ Fears

Most consumers love mobile banking. More than half of all those with a smartphone owners use the service. But growth in mobile banking appears to be tapering off. For instance, Business Insider reports the growth rate for mobile banking at megabanks at Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase continues to fall.

Certainly market saturation is one reason for slower growth, but fears surrounding are the most likely explanation. According to a Federal Reserve survey, 73% of non-mobile users say security concerns are an important reason they don’t jump on the mobile banking wagon.

Consumers’ fears are fueled by the mushrooming number of data breaches. In 2016, Yahoo experienced the largest breach in history, affecting more than one billion accounts. Equifax’s breach in September 2017 touched more than 143 million U.S. consumers, and involved an unacceptable delay in notifying consumers.

Reality Check: Banking providers are a favorite target of hackers. Of the more than 2,000 breaches reported in 2016, about 1,400 occurred in the financial services industry.

In response, IT departments are upping their security investments. Worldwide spending on security-related hardware, software and services rose to $73.7 billion in 2016 from $68.2 billion a year earlier, according to researcher IDC. That number is expected to approach $90 billion in 2018.

Institutions aren’t alone. With 42% of mobile phone owners feeling their personal information is “very unsafe” or “somewhat unsafe”, many are now taking additional security precautions. For instance, three quarters of mobile users in a Federal Reserve study said they won’t download apps outside their primary app store, any many others refuse to send sensitive data when using public wifi networks.

The public clearly has good reasons to be worried and many of their fears are rightly justified, but people’s careless online behavior also exacerbates the problem. The Pew Research Center reports that 41% of online adults have shared the password to one of their online accounts with a friend or family member, and two in five consumers confess that they use the same (or very similar) passwords for many of their online accounts.

Regardless where blame should be placed, cyberattacks cause devastating economic and reputational losses. According to the Ponemon Institute, a breach at a U.S. bank or credit union typically costs around $10 million.
The antidote for reducing these losses and increasing mobile penetration is one and the same: education and awareness.

To take a proactive approach on the mobile banking security issue, banking providers should consider an outreach program including:

  • Launching highly-visible education campaigns to demonstrate that mobile banking security concerns, protecting people’s privacy and keeping their financial data safe are top priorities.
  • Communicating security and privacy policies at every opportunity — in printed materials and e-statements, on websites, in emails, ads and social media campaigns — and teaching staff how to discuss these policies frequently in their interactions with the public.
  • Issuing periodic bulletins or newsletters that outline a collection of consumer security tips. Although the tips may not always relate to their bank accounts, such an effort will underscore the institution’s emphasis on security.
  • Holding seminars on safe online behaviors generally, and specifically how to protect personal financial data.

Just how far banks and credit unions should go to protect customers can be a thorny internal debate for some leadership teams. Some banking providers eliminate hyperlinks in their emails, which allow them to say their customers should never click on a link from them. Other financial institutions go even further, refusing to collect people’s email addresses so they can combat phishing scams by telling customers “if you ever get an email that is purportedly from us, you shouldn’t open it because it is fake.”

Giving up your ability to send email communications and marketing messages to consumers is downright foolish; these financial institutions are cutting off their nose to spite their face. A smarter course is to pursue an educational campaign that addresses consumer fears is not only a good step forward, but a virtual necessity.

Bottom Line: Financial institutions must solve the security riddle and find ways to reassure consumers or mobile banking growth rates will suffer.

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