BofA, Wells Fargo rolling out new mobile banking services

Mon Jul 23, 2012 7:50pm EDT
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By Rick Rothacker

(Reuters) - Bank of America Corp (BAC.N: Quote) and Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N: Quote) are rolling out more retail services accessed by mobile phones, including check deposits, as the banking sector races to cut costs in a tepid economy.

Starting Thursday, Bank of America will allow customers to make deposits by submitting a photo of a check through their smart phones, the bank's online and mobile banking executive, Aditya Bhasin, said on Monday. The No. 2 U.S. bank is also rolling out a service allowing customers to send money to other individuals using their email address or mobile numbers, as well as expanding a coupon service that can be used by mobile customers.

Wells Fargo launched its mobile check deposit service earlier this year and will gradually expand it across the United States by the end of the year, said Brian Pearce, head of the retail mobile channel at the bank. Earlier this year, the No. 4 U.S. bank launched its money transfer service, which is part of a joint venture between Wells, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N: Quote) called clearXchange.

The latest roll-outs mean two of the largest U.S. banks are adding mobile banking services that are increasingly popular with consumers. Combined, Bank of America and Wells Fargo have nearly 20 million active mobile banking users across the United States.

Executives at both banks stress they are focused on evolving customer needs, but banks for decades have also been looking to cut costs by moving transactions to ATMs, online banking sites and now mobile devices.

Banks are hoping new mobile services will eventually cost less than handling transactions in branches, even if there are high upfront costs, said Peter Olynick, card and payments leader at Carlisle & Gallagher Consulting Group.

Bank of America Chief Executive Officer Brian Moynihan has said that increasing mobile use can help the bank scale back on branches and therefore cut costs.

"It is just a much more efficient and frankly strong service model," he said during the bank's second-quarter earnings conference call last week.   Continued...