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VOL. 127 | NO. 99 | Monday, May 21, 2012

Portable Banking

Mobile devices complement – and supplant – services for many area banks

By Andy Meek

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First Tennessee Bank is spending tens of millions of dollars at the moment on upgrades of its technology infrastructure as well as new product development.

Dan Marks, chief marketing officer for First Tennessee Bank, displays the company’s recently upgraded mobile banking application, which enables a customer to take pictures of checks to make deposits.

(Photo: Lance Murphey)

Smaller community-oriented banks in the area, like Triumph Bank and Metropolitan Bank, have rolled out smartphone apps and mobile-optimized websites. The notion of banking on the go is sweeping the industry, both here and beyond, as the more traditional come inside (to a branch) transaction is evolving into a lean back (with a mobile device) experience.

Earlier this month in San Francisco at the FinovateSpring conference, an event focused on financial-related technology, some hints about the future were on display. Cutting-edge technology being shown included credit cards with small buttons that can switch the card from debit to credit.

First Tennessee is on the leading edge of the mobile trend, having rolled out the ability to deposit checks by using apps available on both iPhones and Android phones.

Dan Marks, chief marketing officer at First Tennessee, said his is one of the few banks that offer that ability to snap a picture of a check and digitally deposit it into a bank account using both of those major mobile device brands.

“It’s pretty transformational, when you think about how in the past, to make a deposit, you had to go to the bank,” Marks said. “And now you can make a deposit from wherever you have cell phone service.

“We definitely think, as we look to the future and to a better payment experience, mobile is a big part of that. We think multi-channel is important, and there’s definitely an advantage to being a local bank that gives customers that option.”

In March, Triumph Bank rolled out a downloadable mobile banking app for iPhone, Blackberry and Android devices, in addition to many other Java-enabled phones.

Triumph’s users now have full online banking capabilities including account details, bill payments and funds transfers. And the bank has made other mobile banking changes.

Triumph has mobile browser capability that provides full account access for web-enabled phones and text messaging that allows SMS-enabled phones to receive texts for account balance and transaction history.

Triumph CEO Will Chase said it’s the reason the bank is already ruminating over what its physical brick-and-mortar presence will look like in the future.

“The whole thing is, you need to be closer to your customers,” Chase said. “How do you do that in a world that’s changing? I have a 91-year-old mother and a 21-year old daughter. The both bank at Triumph Bank, but how do I interface with them both? They have very different habits.”

Chase said Triumph would like to add some more brick-and-mortar locations to what it’s got now in the Memphis area. But they may not look like what the bank has now.

“There’s this whole question of the big, open lobby. Is that really what the bank office of the future is going to look like?” Chase said. “It may have a smaller sales type of look and function – again, because of all the things you can now do just with an app.”

Last year, Metropolitan Bank joined the ranks of area banks beefing up their mobile side. Metropolitan announced the launch of enhanced mobile banking service offerings including a mobile banking application and SMS text banking for all account holders.The app is available on several major phone platforms – iPhone, Android and Blackberry.

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