Bank of America CEO's Desperate Mobile Banking Pitch
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Is Bank of America (BAC) CEO Brian Moynihan really excited about mobile banking--or is that just the best he can do to try and change the conversation from lawsuits, fees and regulations?
Inevitably, Moynihan was asked about fees during an appearance on CNBC Tuesday. The Wall Street Journal had reported on its front page Sunday that the bank was backing away from fees in a bid to get customers to hate the bank a bit less.
The CEO dutifully answered a couple of questions on fees, before making a concerted effort to dispense with the topic.
"A lot of the fee stuff that we've talked 4 years--overdraft fees and interchange fees and even the CARD act--a lot of that stuff's been out of our P&L now for over a year so literally quarter by quarter the fees are stable and growing," Moynihan said.
But whether Bank of America is making money off of fees or losing it, its hardly a discussion a CEO wants to dwell on, especially in these times of hating on the banking industry. So, without any transition whatsoever, Moynihan changed the subject.
"One of the areas where we've invested a lot is mobile banking. Why mobile banking? It's because what that allows the customer to do is have a much more intimate relationship with us in much more real time. On a given month we have 22 million texts and emails we send out to customers warning them their balance has dropped below $25 and they should deposit to avoid an overdraft fee. That kind of intimate relationship with that device that you carry around like its your child almost--that intimate relationship is so different for us to talk to that customer," Moynihan said.
Moynihan is far from the only one pitching mobile banking.
When Google (GOOG) Ventures' Rich Miner was asked on Bloomberg Television Tuesday by Deirdre Bolton, "what is the one thing I'm going to be able to do with my smartphone a year or from now that I cant do right now?," his very first response was "paying with your mobile phone."
Mobile payments is a match made in heaven for the technology and banking industries. It allows banks to say they are innovating, and not just by creating Frankenbets on exploding mortgages, and it gives Silicon Valley a desperate, deep-pocketed client willing to finance whatever innovation it can come up with.
The only question is whether U.S. consumers care about this technology. The fact that not just South Korea, but even Kenya and Afghanistan are ahead of the U.S. in this area suggests they may not. And developing a mobile payments market may require a level of government involvement in the industry that U.S. businesses aren't willing to accept. Just because Bank of America is sending 22 million texts and emails, it doesn't mean the bank is getting any revenue. But at least it gives the CEO something cool to talk about.