AT&T brings online banking to cell phones

AT&T recently unveiled a mobile banking platform that could allow users to carry out banking transactions from their cell phones.

AT&T says that it’s planning on preloading the banking application onto new handsets toward the end of the year, and will also allow users to download the application onto more than 30 different handsets currently on the market. The application will allow users to view their account balances, to transfer funds and pay their bills using their mobile phones.

BancorpSouth became the first U.S. bank to adopt AT&T’s mobile banking platform earlier this year, and Wachovia and SunTrust Banks are now following suit. SunTrust executive vice president Gene Kirby expects that mobile banking will become commonplace as wireless broadband becomes more available.

“The first adopters of online banking were innovators, but now it is a part of standard operating procedures for many customers,” he says.

Ilieva Ageenko, the director of emerging applications at Wachovia, says that Wachovia’s decision to employ the mobile banking platform was a matter of meeting its customers’ desire for convenience.

“People want to bank when and where it’s convenient for them,” she says. “The demand for mobile banking capabilities is clear.”

AT&T first announced its plan to create a mobile banking platform last year, when it collaborated with the technology company Firethorn to design and implement a banking interface for handsets. The application lets users sign up for mobile banking on their bank’s Web site and then lets them create a PIN number to ensure secure connection. According to AT&T, all data sent through the banking application is encrypted, and the service can be cancelled immediately if handsets are lost of stolen.

According to the research firm Celent, mobile banking is expected to grow exponentially over the next three years, with 35% of online banking households projected to use mobile banking capabilities by 2010. Matt Wadley, a spokesman for Wachovia, says that Wachovia currently gets about 360,000 unique user sessions per month on the mobile banking service it launched last year. That service, says Wadley, lets users connect to their bank information through any Internet-enabled wireless device and is not dependent on any particular carrier.

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