Updated May 26 at 9:26am

Technology brings banks closer to home, smartphones

'American banks are on the cutting edge...'

Recent advances in technology have transformed the banking industry, with mobile banking and a wide variety of Web-based services becoming standard offerings rather than anomalies. More

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FOCUS: BANKING & FINANCE

Technology brings banks closer to home, smartphones

'American banks are on the cutting edge...'

Posted:

Recent advances in technology have transformed the banking industry, with mobile banking and a wide variety of Web-based services becoming standard offerings rather than anomalies.

But as the pace of change accelerates, who can tell what banking will look like in the future. For example, will your local branch even be necessary?

The most immediate technological change consumers are beginning to see is the expansion of mobile-banking services via the smartphone and tablet formats. “The bigger banks such as [Citibank] have offered this technology for the last two or three years, and although it’s used by only 20 percent of its customers, banks expect mobile banking to grow exponentially over the next five years,” said Bryan Yurcan, associate editor of Bank Systems & Technology, a subsidiary of UBMTechWeb. “This is the immediate future.”

Another service starting to gain popularity is mobile remote-deposit capture, in which customers can deposit checks electronically using a laptop, smartphone or tablet, for instant credit to their account. Paper checks are digitally scanned and an image of the check is electronically sent to the customer’s bank. “That’s the way ‘consumerization’ is going right now. Everyone wants to do what they want, right now. It will become widely adopted over the next few years,” Yurcan said. Large banks such as JPMorgan Chase, PNC Bank, USAA and U.S. Bank offer this service. Locally, the Rockland Trust Co. provides it.

And paperwork? That might become a thing of the past. “This technology can also be used internally to help reduce the massive amounts of paperwork such as a mortgage or a loan application,” he said. “That seems to be one of the next frontiers.” To do so, banks will have to invest in supercomputers not only to store data but to sort it for relevant information.

The fear that banks will have to consolidate and eliminate branches in order to survive looms, to some extent, in the background. “It has been an interesting point of debate,” Yurcan said. “Some think branches will be eliminated but others think the services of a branch will change. Umpqua Bank in Oregon has branches like Starbuck’s, with coffee and Wi-Fi. It’s a possibility.”

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