Banks are closing branches around the United States as the consumer banking model shifts. Many have begun focusing their efforts and technology on their mobile banking offerings, and investors could benefit from owning the banks with the best apps.
Let's look at who's doing the best job so far with the new technological wave.
The mobile banking industry
The "Consumers and Mobile Financial Services 2013" study from the Federal Reserve released this past March found mobile banking adoption among consumers in the U.S. was at 29%, up from 21% last year. But the study noted that "[o]ne of the main reservations consumers have with adopting mobile banking and mobile payment technologies is concern about the security of the technology."
With Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) newest iteration of the iPhone 5s setting record sales in its first weekend and seemingly only to grow from there, its "Touch ID" fingerprint technology is expected to only increase the ease individuals have in using their phones as their wallets. While the percentage of people that use mobile banking still leaves much to be desired, expect that number to rise as consumers get more and more comfortable with the security on their phones.
Furthermore, while concerns surrounding the security of mobile banking were a big reason people said they don't use the technology (49% of respondents noted it as one of the reasons), 40% of respondents said they didn't have a smartphone to use for mobile banking. A Pew Research study released in June found that 56% of adults in the United States own smartphones, up from 35% in 2011. There's a lot of potential growth left in the smartphone market, and as the industry changes, banks are likely to benefit as well.
The banks set to benefit
It's already clear that things are changing in terms of how Americans interact with their banks. Keynote recently released its "Mobile Banking Scorecard," which measures the top 15 banks in the United States and their banking apps. The top three in the study:
3 (tie). Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) and US Bancorp (NYSE:USB)
OK, so really it's the top four. While U.S. Bank didn't win any of the four individual categories that Keynote ranks ("Ease of Use," "Quality and Availability," "Functionality," and "Privacy and Security"), it did move into the "top tier" by scoring a tie with Bank of America.
Bank of America led the study in overall functionality and was the repeat leader for its Google-powered Android banking app. It also highlighted that its number of mobile banking customers through June grew 2.9 million over the past year, from 10.3 million in 2012 to 13.2 in 2013.
2. Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC)
Wells Fargo was the runner-up in the study, as it ranked first in the "Privacy and Security" category. Considering security is the biggest area of concern for individuals, being top-ranked in this area could be a huge benefit to Wells Fargo moving forward. Like Bank of America, it, too, saw big growth in its mobile customer adoption, which stood at 10.7 million, a 29% increase over the past year.
1. JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM)
Chase led the way with its app, as it not only took the top spot overall but also came in first in both "Ease of Use" and "Quality and Availability." In addition, Chase eclipsed Bank of America and Wells Fargo in terms of their mobile-banking growth, with 32% year-over-year growth. Chase's number of active mobile customers moved from 10.6 million to a little over 14 million.
JPMorgan Chase scored a narrow victory, but it's notable that the bank with the top app would also see the most growth in number of users. With those numbers expected to keep growing, JPMorgan Chase could see big benefits as more individuals buy smartphones, and then become comfortable with their phones' security.
Fool contributor Patrick Morris owns shares of Bank of America, Apple, and US Bancorp. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Bank of America, Google, and Wells Fargo and owns shares of Apple, Bank of America, Google, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.