Bank of America plans to close approximately 10 percent of its branches nationwide (i.e. about 600 locations), primarily because of increased usage of mobile and internet banking. CEO Kenneth Lewis told investors about the closures during a meeting in the bank’s hometown of Charlotte, N.C.

Liam McGee, president of Bank of America’s consumer and small-business bank reportedly said the driving force for the closings is changing customer preferences, as mobile and Internet banking take transactions away from traditional branches.

Note date specifics were given as to when the branch closures will actually begin.

More than two million American households adopted internet banking and bill payment during the past year, raising the total to nearly 70 million – this, according to a recent survey by Fiserv Inc., a financial services technology company.

Fiserv said that 69.7 million households (four out of five households with Internet access), now use internet banking services. They are typically accessing balance and account history, and transferring money between accounts. Additionally, 64.4 million households pay at least one bill via the Internet, either at a bank Web site or directly through a company Web site.

Consumers are clearly looking for faster and easier ways to get things done, and people who pay their bills via the internet save time (compared with paying by check). Of those surveyed, 41% of internet banking users indicated that they planned to pay more bills online at their financial institution’s Web site in the coming months, while 35% of those who pay bills directly at company Web sites, said they planned to pay more bills online at those sites.

The Fiserv-sponsored survey reflects the habits of the 88.2 million households in the U.S. with Internet access. It was conducted by The Marketing Workshop and Harris Interactive.

According to a recent report from comScore Inc., access to mobile banking is growing at such a rapid pace that a substantial percentage of users are now accessing their mobile accounts from home on their smartphones and handsets rather than on their PCs at home.

In its inaugural report on the Mobile Financial Services Market which was released recently, comScore said respondents to its survey which examined the use of mobile banking access on mobile phones and 3G service, found that 31% actually accessed financial accounts on mobile phones at home. The next largest percentage — 25% — accessed accounts while running errands. Other times and places from which respondents accessed their bank accounts were: while commuting, 15%; at work, 11%; on vacation, 9%; and business travel, 8%.

Additionally, 44.1% of respondents in the study accessed their financial accounts via Internet browsers while 40.6% used applications to access their accounts. Another 25% of mobile banking customers used SMS texting to access their accounts.

The increasing adoption of smartphones and access to 3G networks, along with the rapid development of mobile apps, has undoubtedly created a very fertile environment for the acceleration of mobile banking. With that, internet banking via mobile devices has been growing at a rapid pace in the U.S., so look out for a more global embrace of the technology soon.

The largest commercial banks in Jamaica, the third largest island in the Caribbean, are reporting a significant growth in the number of customers who are using internet banking, a free service.

The trend suggests a direct response to banks’ increasing service charges, which represent billions in annual revenues for the two largest commercial banks in that country – Scotiabank and National Commercial Bank (NCB).

Bank of Nova Scotia Jamaica (BNS), which upgraded its internet banking service in the first quarter of this year, has is already reporting a 25% jump in the use of internet banking – only halfway through year. Some 37,000, or 10%, of its active customers use ScotiaBank’s internet banking service. BNS is Jamaica’s largest bank in terms of deposits.

NCB, the largest bank in terms of assets, is reporting that internet banking represented 46% of all transactions in May of this year, up from 42% in January.

Together, BNS and NCB control 70% of Jamaica’s commercial banking market.

Logically, as more people in Jamaica get access to Internet, more are using it as their primary way of banking. It is the easiest of all banking channels, even easier than telephone banking.

There are also savings to be realized by those who bank online in Jamaica. Those who utilize internet banking save on fees that they would normally pay for transactions within a branch, bill-payment charges and most importantly, they save on time. They also have the added convenience of being able to do their banking anywhere, any time.

Once a niche market, internet banking has grown into a widely-used tool for the average consumer.

Among 3,988 adults surveyed in the U.S. by Gartner Group, 47% said they now use Internet banking. In the U.K, 30% said the same.

Results tended to vary according to income. Gartner found that over half of all consumers earning more than $30,000 in the U.S. and ?15,000  in the U.K., use Internet banking. Among lower-income households, 25% in America and 17% in the U.K. use internet banking. Via internet banking, you can get a credit card with bad credit.

Over the past several years, online banking has been seen as a way of appealing to more affluent and younger clients,” said David Schehr, Gartner research director. “However, what is becoming clear is that the overall level of consumer Internet use and the increasingly narrow segment of nonusers–particularly in the U.S.–are shifting the dynamics of who is using online banking and what they seek from it.

Among people who don’t utilize Internet banking, no one single reason was cited above all others, noted Gartner. Around 61% of U.S. households and 58% of those in the U.K. said they simply prefer to use other methods. However, 41% of U.S. consumers and 38% in the U.K. blamed security as the most important reason for not banking over the Internet.

Gartner conducted its survey in December 2008 and January 2009 and questioned people 18 years and older.

According to another report from research firm Forrester, the effect of bill consolidation sites, such as Yodlee and Corillian, was noted. With these sites, consumers can manage and pay all their bills directly online and independent of banks. according to Forrester, such sites are starting to woo more people from the banks’ own bill payment sites, and will own a greater share of the market by 2012. Thus, banks will need to do a better job spreading the word about their own online services.

eBusiness executives at banks need to work to establish earlier and stronger bill payment relationships with young affluents and other young adults,” said Forrester senior analyst Edward Kountz. “To strengthen their position and better support these customers, banks need to add more payment options, deploy online and mobile alerts with greater visibility, and continue to hammer home the message that online bill payment is free.

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According to a recent survey by Chinese marketing and business information services provider iResearch, concerns caused by the prospect of falling victim to identity theft has caused 28% of Chinese consumers to cut back on their use of Internet banking and online payment activities.

According to the survey, 3% of Internet banking users indicated they have given up online banking activities or are planning to do so in order to protect their identity. The research also polled potential Internet banking users, 58% of whom stated they have decided to postpone their intentions of taking up internet banking for personal financial management, while almost 25% of interviewees state they have actually decided to give up on their intentions completely. Moreover, 63% of polled consumers said they are currently exercising more caution regarding the financial activities they carry out online, this in order to avoid identity theft.

Bhutan’s oldest bank, Bank of Bhutan, had its 41st foundation day celebration in Thimphu recently, and launched new Internet banking services for its customers. Account inquiries, checkbook requests, internal fund transfers, loan repayments and other transactions can all now be done through SMS and Internet banking.

Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) announced yesterday that it has launched internet banking (‘iBanking’) in Ghana. This new online service will provide SCB’s customers in Ghana with access to banking services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – anywhere in the world, at any time- from the convenience of its secure web based portal.

Mr. Benjamin Mensah, SCB Ghana’s Value Stream General Manager for Wealth Management, Transaction Banking and Insurance, said “We are all excited about iBanking. It is an absolutely FREE, simple, hassle-free and secure internet banking service available to Standard Chartered customers anywhere, anytime. Our customers are now able to check their balances and transaction details, transfer money to business partners, family and friends, pay utility bills, enquire on daily forex rates, request for cheque books and statements etc. from the comfort of their offices or homes without having to visit a brick and mortar branch.

A technology that’s commonly used to authenticate users when they log in for online banking may help reduce fraud, but it reportedly does so at the expense of consumer privacy. This was announced by a civil liberties attorney during a panel at the RSA security conference yesterday.

When you login to a Bank’s web sites, you are typically asked for user name and password. But that’s on the face of it; behind the scenes, the web site’s server is typically trying to identify the device that’s being used – in an attempt to verify that the person logging in is the person whose account is being accessed (under the assumption that most people use the same computer for banking).

The technology not only can be used to allow legitimate customers into Web sites, but also to block computers that have been targeted as “bad actors,” said Todd Inskeep, a senior vice president for the Center for the Future of Banking at Bank of America.

Even though none of the information gathered during a log-in is personally identifiable, the bank shouldn’t have to collect regular data on when, how often and from where a consumer accesses a bank account, said Jennifer Granick of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Such information can typically be compiled with other more sensitive information to create profiles and cross referenced to learn more about consumers, she said.

There is very little privacy protection in the U.S. for this type of information,” Granick said. “We don’t want it shared with affiliates that do advertising.” There should be restrictions on how long the bank will keep the data, who it can share it with and for what purposes, she added.

A new report by Financial Insights has revealed that banks in the Asia-Pacific region will increasingly converge their mobile and Internet banking channels over the next 12 months. In the process, this will impact how banks and other financial institutions craft their channel strategies and engage with customers.

Convergence is reportedly being driven by banks that are aiming to make financial services available to customers anywhere and at any time. They have to grapple with various issues as they converge the two channels including: (1) the level of mobile technology capable of commonly supporting financial transactions over mobile devices; (2) getting the various parties on board and in agreement; and (3) a user-friendly interface.

Improved mobile technology has allowed financial institutions to provide applications that can work on a large number of mobile phones. Thus, the availability of innovative mobile devices across the region will undoubtedly help it to become the common banking channel in the Asia-Pacific region in 2009 and beyond.

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