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Cellular South, BancorpSouth launch on-the-go-banking service

Cellular South’s vision is that, one day, all one will need when leaving home is a cell phone. And, BancorpSouth’s goal is to make banking as secure, flexible and convenient as possible.

Those two missions converged May 5 when Jackson-based Cellular South and BancorpSouth of Tupelo unveiled their new mobile banking service. In collaboration with mobile payments provider Firethorn Holdings, LLC, a Qualcomm company, the new service looks to bring all of the pluses of online banking straight to customers’ cell phones.

“Mobile banking is a convenient and secure method of managing money through your wireless handset,” said Cellular South president Hu Meena. “Whether you’re a college student or a busy business traveler, our mobile banking application gives you the flexibility to pay bills or transfer funds when you need to make financial decisions on the go.”

Aubrey B. Patterson, BancorpSouth’s chairman and CEO, said, “We value our partnership with Cellular South, and are excited to offer the option of mobile banking to Cellular South customers. Managing bank accounts from a wireless device is the future of banking, and it will banking more convenient for BancorpSouth and Cellular South customers.”

Moving money

The two companies tout the service’s easy use, but it required a lot of hard work to get it launched. However, BancorpSouth was quite familiar with Firethorn.

“A joint task force of technology and marketing teams from both Cellular South and BancorpSouth worked together six to eight months in planning and executing this joint venture,” said Michael Lindsey, senior vice president at BancorpSouth. “BancorpSouth has been working with Firethorn, offering mobile banking to our customers since November of 2006, so there were no surprises. The people at Cellular South are very talented, and that made for a very smooth implementation.”

The new mobile banking service is free, but does have requirements. Users will need to have an account with a participating bank, such as BancorpSouth, along with online access to their account, which is free at most banks.

After signing in, users can initiate the mobile banking process through a “mobile banking” link at the top of the online banking sign-in page. The link will take them to a form requesting information including the wireless provider, phone model and phone type. Users can access and monitor multiple bank accounts from the same application and PIN.

The site will provide a secure initialization code once an applicant submits the finished form. To activate mobile banking, users must enter the code into the mobile banking section of their handsets and set up their secure PIN. Processing takes just a few seconds.

The mobile banking application is provided through Atlanta-based Firethorn, which offers a secure application with a user-friendly interface. Firethorn also allows users to access their accounts at different banks from a single PIN, making the process more convenient.

Firethorn’s financial institution partners are BancorpSouth, America First Credit Union, Arvest Bank, FirstBank, SunTrust, Synovus and Wachovia. Its wireless carrier providers include Cellular South, AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

Ahead of the pack

This is not Cellular South’s first foray into on-the-go consumer services, or m-commerce. Last May, the nation’s largest privately held wireless provider launched the mobile payment service Obopay. It allows Cellular South customers to receive, send and spend money directly from their wireless device.

In June 2007, Cellular South executed the multi-city (Jackson and Memphis) trial launch of the mobile payment solution WirelessWallet, and announced it a success the following September. According to the telecommunications company, an impressive 87% of those surveyed said they were interested the mobile payment technology.

BancorpSouth, likewise, is embracing today’s mobile commerce technology, and earning attention for it. In March 2007, the largest Mississippi-based financial institution announced that its customers who subscribe to the AT&T Mobility wireless service could download the mobile banking application directly to their device, where they can access the application anywhere and at any time.

According to BancorpSouth, it was the very first bank in the country to conduct a mobile banking trial.

In September 2007, Bank Systems & Technology named BancorpSouth senior vice president and manager of electronic delivery services Michael Lindsey one of banking’s “Most Innovative CIOs of 2007” for leading BancorpSouth’s pioneering entry into mobile financial services in 2007.

“BancorpSouth was an early adopter of Internet banking in the mid ‘90s,” said Patterson. “Our early mover strategy has resulted in BancorpSouth having almost 40% of its households as Internet banking customers. We believe mobile banking is a channel of the future and have positioned ourselves to now offer it to our customers.

“BancorpSouth has a history of investing in emerging technology to better serve our customers. It shows that an emerging regional bank can be a leader in innovative products to better serve our customers.”

Lindsey added that working with fellow homegrown Cellular South was a plus.

“It was very satisfying working with Cellular South,” he said. “Working together, we can use our resources to benefit our respective clients.”

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at wally.northway@msbusiness.com.

About Wally Northway

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