Facebook Financial & Banking Apps Have Only 263 Daily Users

image It's been a while since we looked at the actual usage of payment, personal finance, lending, and banking apps on Facebook (previous coverage here; see note 1). And assuming the numbers provided by Facebook are accurate, it's not good news. 

Overall, the banking and personal finance apps have anemic usage levels totaling just 263 daily users (for apps with more than 1 daily user). That does not include virtual currencies or stock tracking/investing applications (see note 2). In comparison, the most popular general Facebook app, FunWall, has more than 3 million daily users.

But the number will grow rapidly if major financial institutions add balance inquiry functionality such as (#4) MyMoney from Fiserv's Galaxy unit (previous coverage here) and mShift's Key Point Credit Union app discussed here (only 1 daily user, so it did not make our table).  Activity in Facebook personal finance apps yesterday (13 March 2008):

Name (parent) Daily Users
1. PayPal (eBay) 80
2. Billmonk (Obopay) 55
3. LendingClub* 26
4. MyMoney (Fiserv) 17
5. PayMe 14
6. Debt Manager 10
7. Prosper 7
8. FriendFunds 7
9. UPside Visa Card Balance Reader 6
10. Web Money 6
11. Buxfer 5
12. IOU (Sanjay Madan) 5
13. Split It (TD Bank) 4
14. MoneyExchange (Revolution Money) 4
15. IOU (Jonas Neubert) 3
16. Mortgage Calculator 3
17. BillTrack 3
18. Insurance Marketplace 2
19. Wesabe 2
20. FB E-Wallet 2
21. Intuit Tax Tips 2
TOTAL 263**

*See comment 1

**Does not include apps with less than 2 users

Notes:

1. You cannot make a meaningful comparison with last summer's activity because Facebook changed the way it reports usage. Previously, the company reported the number of application downloads and now it shows the much, much smaller "active daily user" total. For example, in July 2007, LendingClub had already had more than 11,000 downloads. Under the new measurement system it tallies just 26 daily users which puts it in third place (see table below).

2. The leading stock tracking app, Fantasy Stock Exchange, has 7,990 daily users. The most popular virtual currency AceBucks has 11,300 daily users.

KeyPoint Credit Union Launches on Facebook through mShift Platform

Link to Key Point Credit Union KeyPoint Credit Union is the first financial institution to launch full-fledged account access through Facebook. Using its mobile banking engine powered by mShift, members can view account balances within their Facebook account (see screenshot below).

To view their balance within Facebook, users must add the KeyPoint application to their Facebook account. The first time it's used, users must log in to their Key Point account using their normal username and password. On subsequent visits, balance info is automatically displayed with no login, provided the user is logged into their Facebook account.

In addition to balance info, the KeyPoint application displays content taken from the credit union's homepage.

Analysis
Even though the application is relatively simple, we are giving it our OBR Best of the Web award, the second one this week, and the sixth in 2007 (see previous coverage here). Placing account balance info within Facebook is a great way to demonstrate commitment to social networking members. There are privacy issues with displaying data without a banking login (note 1), but it's reasonable to let your customers decide for themselves if they are comfortable with this setup.    

Screenshots
KeyPoint Facebook application prior to first authentication session:

Key Point Credit Union Facebook application

After initial authentication, account balance info is automatically displayed:

Key Point Credit Union Facebook application

Note:

1. Other Facebook users cannot see the balance info, but someone sharing the computer might see it.

Mobile Banking = Online Banking

If you are looking for a single article that summarizes the current state of mobile banking, check out Karen Epper Hoffman's feature article, Mobile Banking: Where's the Business Case in this month's BAI Strategies. Karen is one of the most important writers in the financial services press, with a rich industry background, and I always enjoy speaking with her and reading her work.

The business case is indeed elusive: Unfortunately, Ms. Hoffman is not able to answer the question raised in the headline. But it's not her fault. It's simply too early to know how the mobile banking business case will shake out. With just a few hundred thousand users out of 200 million U.S. adults, even finding someone who's used mobile banking is difficult, much less figuring out if they'll do expedited payments on the phone or decrease their costly chats with your service rep.  

There are literally hundreds of factors that will determine whether mobile becomes a standalone profit center or is just one more cost center. Many of those factors won't be known until well into the next decade. In fact, we are likely headed towards a convergence of phone, laptop, and entertainment device, that will make the question moot.

But it matters little: Banks have no choice in the mobile matter. Whether or not the business case is made with straightforward fees (e.g., signature debit) or with a bunch of impossible-to-measure intangibles (e.g., online banking), banks WILL support mobile access, just like they support telephone and online today. 

But HOW they support it during the next five years is a matter of great debate and fortunately our upcoming FINOVATE conference (note 1) includes mFoundry the company behind the most high-profile launch to date, Citi Mobile, and MShift, the company that supports more than 80% of all the live U.S. mobile banking programs.

mFoundry
Even after all the hype of the past 12 months, the fact remains that only one bank, and one vendor, have launched a fully downloadable, custom mobile banking app: Citi Mobile powered by Sausalito, Cal-based mFoundry (see previous coverage here). And with a reference account like Citibank, mFoundry is on everyone's short list for 2008/2009 deployments of downloadable mobile banking & payments apps. I've had a chance talk to CEO Drew Sievers several times this year, the last time at the Mobile eCommerce Summit in June, and I look forward to seeing the latest from his pioneering company at FINOVATE.

MShift
While Citibank may have the highest profile launch to date, the vast majority of financial institutions offering mobile banking, 90% or so, use the platform of San Jose, Cal-based MShift. After meeting CEO Awele Ndili in May at a Metavante user conference, we wrote about his amazing hold on the smaller end of the market and listed the 32 clients they had live as of mid-May (here). There have been several launches since then including one of our favorite credit unions, Tech CU, also located in San Jose (news release here). The thing I remember most from my first meeting with Dr. Ndili is how he manages to run simultaneous live demos from 3 or 4 different handsets at time, including a check image on a tiny flip phone screen. It will be interesting to see if he tries to perform that trick on the FINOVATE stage.
 

Note:

1. FINOVATE 2007: DEMOing the Future of Finance includes 7-minute demos from five key mobile players: mFoundry, MShift, ClairMail, Firethorn, and Monitise Americas (see previous coverage here). While the auditorium seating is sold out, we have a few remaining seats available in a 40-seat overflow room down the hall. That room features a great view of the live audio-video feed of the demos. To register, visit the FINOVATE site and click register in the upper-right corner.

mShift Leads in U.S. Mobile Banking Deployments

mShift is the biggest mobile banking player you've never heard of. Despite powering WAP sites for 32 U.S. financial institutions, with several in operation for more than five years (see list below), the company remains relatively unknown. I had a chance to catch up with CEO Awele Ndili and Director of Biz Development Pam Livingston at Metavante's user conference this week, where mShift demo'd its WAP services in the exhibition hall and in a private session.

San Jose-based mShift has 32 clients live, 5 banks and 27 credit unions, many deployed through mShift's relationship with online banking platform provider, Digital Insight, now a unit of Intuit. Only 5 clients have been deployed prior to 2004. More than half (19) launched in the past 12 months, with 8 launching in December 2006 alone. 

Here's a list of mShift clients and when each first deployed WAP-based mobile banking:

2000 (1 deployment)

  • Patelco CU (Sep)

2001 (2)

  • Alliance CU (Nov)
  • VisionsFCU (Dec)

2002 (2)

  • BFSFCU (Oct)
  • Golden 1 (Nov)

2004 (3)   

  • DCU (Jan)
  • XFCU (Mar)
  • Illinois National Bank (June)

2005 (3)

  • Premier America CU (April)
  • MACU (July)
  • FlagStar Bank (July)

2006 (15)

  • VyStar CU (Feb)
  • Amplify CU (Mar)
  • First Republic Bank (Aug)
  • SAFE CU (Aug)
  • Owen Com. Bank (Sep)
  • Trumark Financial CU (Oct)
  • STCU (Nov)
  • Metro CU (Dec)
  • NIHFCU (Dec) 
  • TDFCU (Dec)
  • Allegacy FCU (Dec)
  • Metro1 CU (First Metropolitan CU) (Dec)
  • Sun West FCU (Dec)
  • Heritage Com. CU (Dec)
  • SEFCU (Dec)

2007 (6)

  • CECU (Jan)
  • Mazuma CU (Jan)
  • First City Credit Union (Jan)
  • Salem Five Bank (Jan)
  • Cardinal Bank (Apr)
  • SDFCU (Apr)

In addition to the usual balance/transaction info, the mShift system can also display check images on the mobile phone display, a service we hadn't really thought would be in high demand. But at least on larger mobile devices, such as a Blackberry or Treo, the check images are very readable. As mobile browsers improve the ability to easily zoom in on selected content (for example, Apple's iPhone), the check-image display should prove popular. It's an important part of online self-service with one caveat: However cute the check-image display on today's small flip phones, they are still largely unreadable.

Update: Steve Bills at The American Banker published an article today that discusses mShift and the advantages of a so-called vendor-neutral WAP mobile service (article here).