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Mobile-Banking Households Segment Summary June 2013

Source: 2012–13 MacroMonitor

The use of smartphones and other wireless devices for financial services in the United States more than doubled between 2010 and 2012. In 2012, 39% of households (66 million) own one or more mobile devices: smartphones and tablets (see the June 2013 MacroMonitor Market Trends newsletter). Unlike previous adoptions of new financial products and services—including computer use—adoption of technology, not products and services, is driving mobile-banking use. This summary focuses on three types of US households using mobile devices for financial services currently.


Of mobile-device owners (66 million), about 51 million use them for financial services. Of these users, roughly 9 million households use mobile devices for information only: checking on account balances and account alerts and researching products. Some 2 million households use mobile devices for transactions only: paying bills, transferring funds, making person-to-person (P2P) transfers, and trading stocks. The majority (40 million) use mobile devices for both information and transactions—true mobile-banking households.

  • Mobile-banking household heads have a mean age of 43, in comparison with information-only users (45) and transaction-only users (49).
  • Transaction-only households are more likely than information-only or mobile-banking households to have a high school diploma, to be retired, and to be financially responsible for dependent adults or Boomerang Kids.
  • Information-only households have a higher mean income and higher net worth than either transaction-only or mobile-banking households have.


Mobile-banking households' ownership of almost all financial products and services is average, in comparison with that of all households; their liabilities are also average. Differences between the three groups of households are evident in the amount (mean balances) they own or owe.

  • Information-only households have higher mean balances in savings ($32K), financial assets ($269K), investable assets ($203K), liquid assets (110K), and home equity ($148K) than do transaction-only or mobile-banking households.
  • Transaction-only households have a lower total-asset mean balance ($272K) and debt balance ($67K), than do information-only and mobile-banking households. However, their home equity ($121K) is somewhat higher than that for mobile-banking households ($113K).
  • Mobile-banking households have the highest mean balance ($250K) in other real-estate equity.
  • In addition to using mobile devices, a majority of mobile-banking households speak face-to-face with a teller inside an institution (57%), use their institution's drive-thru facility (74%), and use their institution's ATM (79%) at least once in a typical month.

Financial Attitudes

Of all financial attitudes measured by the MacroMonitor, some interesting findings include:

  • Because the proportion of mobile-banking households is large, the majority of their attitudes are similar to those of all households. For example, 86% prefer to do business with a single financial-services company; 89% agree that when investing, getting the highest return for the lowest risk is the most important factor; and 91% like to keep their financial affairs uncomplicated.
  • Information-only households are less likely than average to believe that the next generation will be better off, to resent financial-institution profits, and to take substantial risk for substantial investment gains; they are more likely to assert that the internet is a good source for financial information.
  • Transaction-only households are less likely to try new services without a recommendation from a person they trust and more likely than average to enjoy taking care of their finances, to worry about keeping up financially, to conduct their financial business in person, to shop around for financial products and services, to resent financial-institution profits, and to think that the next generation will be better off.


Progress in mobile communications and allied industries has the potential to affect the financial-services industry in ways that many banks are unprepared to address. Technology-adoption-driven consumer households differ from financial-services-adoption-driven households in many ways. Technology-driven households are faster to try and buy than are all other consumer households; they are also not as information intensive and are not as concerned about privacy and security—convenience, mobility, and customization take precedence. Marketing to these consumers is quite different from connecting with consumer households that have been early adopters of new financial-product and -services offers previously—benefits that each group finds attractive are completely different. For example, information-only mobile-banking households—the traditional target—do not resent financial-institution profits; the majority of mobile-banking households do.

In combination with a having penchant for the new and different, many mobile-banking households may look for ways to bypass banks. For example, Bitcoin and other services that derive from cryptology could be immune from banking-industry cooptation. The potential also exists for the success of mobile-transaction mechanisms—such as M-Pesa in Kenya—that occur entirely outside the conventional banking industry. Closer to home, the use of PayPal, peer-to-peer, and person-to-person payments (in use on social networks, massive online gaming platforms, and crowd sourcing) currently bypasses, or disintermediates, the traditional financial-institution economy; improving encryption technology ensures P2P use will continue to grow. Increasing use of cryptology and encryption poses a potential threat to many financial institutions.

Although many questions remain about mobile-banking use, the MacroMonitor provides both a baseline and an insightful look at current mobile-banking households. For a more in-depth look, contact CFD.