The Royal Bank of Canada has become that country's first bank to launch a mobile banking application for select smartphones - namely, RIM BlackBerry devices and Apple's iPhones, iPod Touch and iPad.
The free applications enable users to view account balances for business and personal accounts, as well as information about credit cards and loans. Users can pay bills online, view transaction histories, transfer funds between RBC accounts, send third-party payments and locate branches and ATMs.
"RBC has offered mobile banking services to our clients since 2008 and our new integrated apps leverage the capability of the device to create a simple and easy to use experience," James McGuire, vice president of digial strategy and experience at RBC, said in a statement. "In an era of long work days and short weekends, getting more done can be challenging. We are taking convenience and control to a new level by providing customers with the ability to stay connected with their finances on their schedule."
An RBC poll found that 79 percent of Canadians own a mobile device and 44 percent are interested in mobile banking - an area that's seen explosive growth worldwide. Juniper Research analyst Howard Wilcox wrote in a Dec. 10 blog post that his firm is expecting mobile banking users to double globally over the next three years, to 400 million users. Which, he adds, doesn't include the mobile money transfers to developing countries - an area also seeing quick growth.
The industry's central challenge is security - or, more exactly, convincing customers that banking solutions are secure.
"Banks need to ensure they play their part too with security guarantees," Wilcox wrote. "Many people after all are quite reticent about online banking let alone mobile banking. But it's more than that. My point is that bank customers need to be convinced of the secure nature of banking on a device that they might leave on a train, or might be stolen. It's the first point that people make about mobile banking when you raise it with them as the -next big thing.'"
RBC in its polling found the same to be true, reporting that 24 percent of those polled cited security concerns as the main hesitation keeping them from mobile banking.
"We understand how important information security and privacy are and we are providing customers with the same safety and security guarantee that's offered with our online banking services," said RBC's McGuire. He added, somewhat less assuringly, "If an unauthorized transaction is conducted through an RBC mobile banking service, clients will be reimbursed for any resulting losses to those accounts."
The RBC application can be downloading by visiting www.rbc.com/mobileapps on a device's browser.
Supported BlackBerry handsets include the 8520, 8530, 8900, 9000, 9630 and 9700, though CrackBerry.com reports that, per RBC, additional models work as well.
Earlier this year, USAA, a financial services group for members of the military and their families, released mobile banking applications for the iPhone, as well as Android, Palm and BlackBerry handsets. The application enables customers to, using the phones' cameras, deposit checks without visiting a bank.