Wireless banking brings partnerships

Mark Dickelman fully expects wireless banking to surpass the popularity of PC banking in record time.

Dickelman, vice-president of m-commerce and wireless for the Bank of Montreal, said he is already replacing desktop banking with the wireless version himself, for his personal use.

“It’s faster than the Web for me,” he said, adding that the bank’s wireless portal, www.Veev.com, offers text-driven information from any access device.

In 1999 the Bank of Montreal (BOM) went live with its commercial wireless banking, branded Veev. Dickelman noted it was very important to the bank to get on-line with a wireless solution quickly.

“We certainly had a significant lead,” he said. “We rolled out mobile banking in Canada very early.”

Originally the portal was running on Windows NT, but in 1999 the bank decided to start switching its wireless services to a Unix operating system.

Sun Microsystems was happy to take on the challenge via its Solaris. Dickelman said the bank had been a long-time customer of Sun’s and it had found Solaris to be very robust.

David Littlewood, director of financial services for Sun Microsystems, said the Bank of Montreal was smart to get on-line with its wireless initiatives. “When they started this, wireless was pretty new.”

Dickelman noted the bank had also been a customer of 724 Solutions since 1998. Susan Witteveen, vice-president of mobile commerce at 724 Solutions in Toronto, said 724 first implemented the bank’s branch automation system. So, when 724 approached the bank with ideas for wireless banking, it was on the basis of proven successes with technology and the bank itself.

“This bank is very well known for bringing value to customers with innovative technology,” she said. “I think the Bank of Montreal could foresee that this is what customers would look for, would demand.”

724 and Sun had also been working together on wireless initiatives for some time, so when BOM decided to switch its wireless services to the Solaris OS, it was a natural fit.

Witteveen noted that originally the 724 financial services platform was on NT. “We wanted to be platform independent, so Unix seemed the right move for us, but again that is also driven by customer needs.”

Littlewood added that 724’s systems can run in-house or through an ASP.

“Sun provides services that go along with these systems, especially the ASP model,” he said.

Littlewood said BOM implemented the Sun infrastructure and hardware and 724’s E10,000 solution in anticipation of customer demands.

He noted the wireless market may not have boomed yet, but when it does the bank will have a well-run solution.

Veev.com allows the bank’s wireless clients to access all account transactions, re-order cheques, take part in the bank’s brokerage services and do some trading, according to Dickelman..

“One of the great features of Veev is the stock alerts. So I don’t have to watch for my stocks, the site will alert me. There is also a great news wire feature,” he said.

Dickelman said that BOM has tried to grow its wireless services slowly, although last summer the bank had more than 6,000 users.

He noted their biggest achievement is the multi-network, multi-country, multi-device solution for wireless customers.

“I think the quality of service has been superior. From time to time we lose the signal, but the service is never a problem,” Dickelman said. “You just reconnect and you are back where you were.”