ASB's mobile banking steams ahead

ASB Bank's mobile phone banking trial, held in conjunction with Vodafone, will continue indefinitely

ASB Bank's mobile phone banking trial, held in conjunction with Vodafone, will continue indefinitely and will eventually be rolled out on a commercial basis as part of an ongoing wireless data strategy.

"We've just done a review of it with 150 customers and enthusiastic raptures is probably the best way of looking at it," says ASB Bank general manager of technology Garry Fissenden.

The trial, which has been running for four months, allows users to access their bank account details via Vodafone cellular network and to receive the information in an SMS message form. "Users see an extra option on the screen and when they select it, they get balances for their accounts and a mini-statement of the last five transactions and some foreign exchange information."

ASB Bank adds a layer of encryption on top of the usual Vodafone security and ties the user's bank account access to that phone's SIM card. "At the moment we have to change the user's chip - we transfer over all the data first - and run part of the application on the phone itself."

This has meant only being able to use one type of cellphone in the trial, Alcatel, but Fissenden says the full version will be usable by anyone with a Phase Two Plus phone - the latest generation. "It's a trial, so we wanted to make it as straightforward as possible, so we only chose customers with this type of phone."

Technology has also moved on since the trial began and Fissenden says in the commercial version ASB Bank won't have to change the SIM card in the phone - the application will run directly from the bank.

One feature in great demand, and something Fissenden hopes will be included in the final version, is the ability to transfer funds between accounts. "That's the most often requested item from our customers."

Fissenden says within a year he expects to see WAP-enabled cellphones usurping the SMS technology. WAP (wireless application protocol) could see Web sites being re-configured for the small screens found on cellphones.

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