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Tablets and smartphones are changing how people pay bills, get investment advice

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How about taking a picture of a cheque with your smartphone to deposit it?

What about getting online advice about your investments when you're on your tablet?

And then there's paying for small purchases with smartphones.

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The use of smartphones and tablets in consumers' everyday lives is helping push changes in how they bank, pay for bills and even how they can get investment advice, say experts.

Consumers want to do things when they want and where they want, said Charaka Kithulegoda, ING Direct Canada's chief information officer.

"It's whenever I have 10, 15, 30 seconds, a couple of clicks on a mobile device," Mr. Kithulegoda said from Toronto.

ING Direct Canada will soon offer cheque imaging to a select group of its customers as a pilot project.

These customers will use their ING mobile app to will take a picture of the front and back of the cheque with their smartphone to deposit it immediately.

Canadian regulations, however, still dictate that the actual cheque has to be mailed to the bank, Mr. Kithulegoda noted.

"Hopefully, we are going to make it slightly easier for you and you can deposit that cheque and get the security of that cheque being in your account immediately," he said.

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"When you're going by that Canada Post mailbox, you can drop that cheque in the mail instead of making a special trip when you have 10 other things to do."

PwC financial services analyst John MacKinlay said innovative experiences that consumers experience online help drive their expectations, and that applies to banking too.

"That really does continue to put a lot of pressure on the banks and the banking system to continue to be innovative," said Mr. MacKinlay, partner and national leader of financial services consulting at PwC.

The Bank of Montreal was recently given regulatory approval to offer online advice to its clients who have a portfolio of $100,000 or more in investments.

"We continue to see Canadians, really, leading in social media service and wanting to do more and more things online, including their investing using iPads and iPhones," said BMO's Viki Lazaris.

AdviceDirect, which bills itself as the first online brokerage to offer advice, is the result of client feedback, said Ms. Lazaris, president and CEO of BMO InvestorLine.

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Clients – particularly women, 30-somethings and retirees – are looking for "validation" in their investment decisions, she said.

The online tool will provide individual recommendations on investments through a complex technology that doesn't require a human adviser, she added.

"The advice will be given by the tool. So the kind of advice will be individual advice for each client based on their investor profile," Ms. Lazaris said. "The technology behind it is very complicated and very sophisticated. It took several years of internal development."

But advice is still available from investment advisers via online chat, email and phone calls.

Using smartphones to pay for small purchases is also getting ready to take off. Canada's financial institutions have announced guidelines for mobile payments that will work with technology in place.

Last spring, CIBC and telecom company Rogers Communications announced a partnership that will allow newer BlackBerry smartphones to act like a credit card at checkouts.

The technology will work exclusively with CIBC credit card accounts and BlackBerrys on the Rogers network and is expected for later this year.

While banks have mobile apps, PwC technology analyst Balaji Jairam said they are "clunky" so far.

"That's why mobile banking hasn't taken off in the way online banking has taken off, especially in Canada because most Canadians are connected to a laptop," said Mr. Jairam, director of PwC's technology consulting practice.

He noted that mobile transactions have been common in Japan and South Korea for quite some time.

But in North America with the uptake of tablet computers and smartphones, it has opened up new potential for mobile transactions.

"The key will be simplicity in the hands of consumers."

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