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Small banks get tech-savvy

By David McMillin ·
Friday, November 9, 2012
Posted: 5 pm ET

Community banks are officially part of the technology revolution.

According to the Independent Community Bankers of America's 2012 Community Bank Technology Survey, 37 percent of community banks are offering mobile banking tools to their customers. That's quite a jump from the 15 percent of community institutions that were offering the technology when the survey was last conducted in 2010.

"Over the past four years, the numbers have been low each time we've measured mobile banking," says Cary Whaley, vice president, payments and technology for the ICBA. "Now we're seeing big growth, and that pattern looks like it will continue."

Of the banks that are not currently offering mobile banking services, 44 percent said they plan to add the technology within two years.

Customers cling to old banking habits

Small banks are giving their customers the ability to use their smartphones and tablets for their personal finance needs, but those customers aren't immediately jumping on the bandwagon. The survey shows that only 8 percent of these consumers are taking advantage of mobile banking tools.

"We see mobile having a similar trajectory to online banking adoption, except the hill may be just a bit steeper," Whaley says.

Even some elements of online banking still seem sluggish in terms of customer adoption. While managing money via a personal computer or laptop may seem like an everyday part of account holders' lives, many customers at community banks are still holding on to traditional approaches to money management. Only 24 percent of customers at the institutions in this survey have signed up for paperless statements.

As banks continue to try to cut costs, they will need to motivate more consumers to understand the benefits of electronic statements. Whaley says that small banks may need to consider their fee structures and offer some type of break for customers on bank fees if they enroll in paperless statements -- a practice that some institutions already have implemented.

Do you have an account at a community bank? Have you started using some of the newest technologies available?

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