It’s astonishing when you think about all we accomplish today with a device half the size of a pack of playing cards. If you’re an intrepid person like me, you’re probably using your smartphone to do something that would have been absurd a decade ago—depositing checks into your checking account, transferring money from one account to another, and wondering just how the magical device will deliver cash in future. It already buys me coffee at Starbucks.
Mobile banking is just one of many business apps populating the tiny landscape of our smartphones and tablets. I use an app that organizes my reimbursable business expenses, snapping photos of my tax receipts and dinner bills. In the background, a genie attends to the clerical stuff I used to attend do with a half-inch thick wad of paper receipts. I am thus more personally productive.
Today, more than half of the 100 largest banks in the US offer mobile banking, and roughly 19 million US households use the service. The enhanced efficiency of mobile banking is evident in the 2,500 branches that banks closed last year, and an expected decline in the number of branches from 93,000 to 80,000 within the next decade. Other businesses have latched onto the ease and operational cost efficiencies of offering clients the ability to pay them using a mobile device.
We operate in the BYOD era, in which our companies want us to use the same device we text our teenagers on for business purposes—so long as IT is made aware and, even better, centrally manages this use. There are many reasons why IT and business unit leaders must be cognizant of these activities—the varied risks they produce. Offsetting this robust organizational effectiveness is the need to protect all that customer data and proprietary business information flying through the airwaves. Serious privacy and security risks must be addressed since these devices are susceptible to being lost or stolen. Companies also must ensure their mobile solutions are secure from identity theft, viruses, malware and data transmission vulnerabilities, and comply with myriad federal and state regulations.
Certainly, anyone with a mobile device would be hard-pressed not to take advantage of the remarkable convenience of reviewing savings and checking account balances, depositing checks and transferring funds via their smartphones. And companies would lose competitive position if they did not continue to discover other new and innovative business apps. The goal is to seize these opportunities while managing the related risks.