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Notes from BAI’s Retail Delivery

I'm heading home from my 14th Retail Delivery Show, sponsored by BAI. The show has evolved over the years but at the core, still remains a huge technology conference. With more than 5,000 in attendance, equally split between the buy side and the sell side, it's a one-stop shopping experience for just about any piece of software, hardware, or expertise you'll need for all your retail channels, online, branch, ATM, call center, and especially this year, the mobile front (note 1).

Mobile rules
For the second year in a row, mobile delivery was a hot subject, with a number of great presentations on the subject. I didn't attend them all, but here are highlights of what I saw:

  • Bankinter demonstrated how the mobile channel has as much utility, if not more, than Internet banking. My favorite stat from its presentation: 20% of the bank's retail interest rate swaps, about 200 per month, are initiated via cellphone.
  • South Africa's FNB, Absa, and other banks are having such success with the mobile channel that they expect mobile banking customers to surpass online customers sometime in 2008.
  • Richard Crone, Crone Consulting, was mobbed like a rock star after his presentation the first day; people crowded five deep around the podium to hand over a business card in exchange for a copy of Crone's presentation. 
  • Firethorn CEO Tripp Rackley announced at an invitation-only breakfast-gathering that his company had been acquired hours earlier by Qualcomm for a cool $210 million.
  • Bank of America disclosed it had attracted 500,000 active users to its mobile banking service launched 6 months ago. Although, that's more mobile users than all other U.S. financial institutions combined (note 2), it's only 2% of the bank's 22.8 million active online bankers. According to TowerGroup, 90% of those who tried mobile banking at BofA have remained active with 99% checking balances, 87% looking at transaction history, 10% making funds transfers, and 5% paying a bill.

Online banking is a virtual no-show
While the big online banking vendors were out in force, fewer small companies were out touting online banking solutions. Only 28 of 350 exhibitors listed "online banking" as one of their product areas, compared to 41 showing CRM solutions and 70 with branch banking products. 

There was even less activity in the educational sessions. It wasn't until the second-to-last session of the conference that "online" was included in a session, The Next Generation of Online Banking: Profiting from Untapped Markets, by Forrester's Cathy Graeber, and Washington Trust's Michael Rauh (see BAI coverage here). 

Alt-payments on stage
On the first day, Steve Mott of BetterBuyDesign chaired a panel discussion, Debit – The Next Generation of Profitability, with PayPal's Dan Schatt (formerly of Celent) and HSBC's Daniel J. Eckert discussing Tempo (formerly DebitMan). The session barely touched on traditional debit and was much more focused on what's now called "decoupled debit" and its potential to disrupt the Visa/MasterCard/AmEx/Discover hegemony (see HSBC article below).  

More information
BAI's online coverage included blogs, podcasts, and longer articles (here).

American Banker Technology Editor Steve Bills filed several reports from the conference (subscription required):


1. Mobile consultant Richard Crone counts 76 mobile vendors operating in the United States plus at least four more operating in stealth mode.

2. Online Banking Report estimate, also same conclusion reached by TowerGroup in recent report.