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Qualcomm’s Firethorn adds thousands of financial institutions to mobile banking platform

March 1, 2010

David Eads is founder/CEO of Mobile Strategy Partners

David Eads is founder/CEO of Mobile Strategy Partners

Qualcomm’s Firethorn now supports mobile banking for more than 3,000 U.S. financial institutions in their carrier-preloaded mobile wallet, which has the potential to be extremely valuable for both mobile payments and mobile marketing.

Consumers can now access mobile banking from a single preloaded, carrier-branded mobile banking application regardless of where they bank, and credit unions and credit card companies are also supported. Firethorn is building a database of mobile phone numbers, email addresses, ZIP codes and financial institution login credentials.

“I think this is great for consumers—mobile banking is now available to almost everyone,” said David Eads, founder/CEO of Mobile Strategy Partners LLC, Atlanta. “If Firethorn really is building a payments directory, it removes a huge barrier to mobile payment adoption.

“P2P payments is on the to-do list for a lot of institutions this year,” he said. “This will only accelerate the trend.

“This also has the potential to simplify the mobile commerce checkout process tremendously.”

Firethorn, a Qualcomm company, provides mobile banking on AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, CellularSouth, Metro PCS and T-Mobile USA.

Firethorn has also partnered with CashEdge to provide P2P payments. CashEdge also powers P2P mobile payments at PNC Bank, First Hawaii and Omaha Bank. Presumably Firethorn is using CashEdge’s aggregation capabilities to access all these institutions.

Mr. Eads credits Firethorn and AT&T for starting the current rush toward mobile banking in the U.S.

Firethorn sold their carrier-blessed platform to a number of banks over the last few years starting with Regions, SunTrust, Wachovia and Bancorpsouth. Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union (PSECU) signed with the company as recently as December 2009.

Mr. Eads said that while once ubiquitous in calling on financial institutions, it seems now they are less focused on selling to individual financial institutions and instead are focusing on providing services to the carriers.

Interestingly, the Firethorn mobile banking application prompts consumers for their email address and ZIP code when they enroll for an institution, in addition to their username and password for that institution.

The application also asks you to opt-in to mobile marketing, and defaults to “Yes,” which is atypical.

Mr. Eads said this means that Firethorn is building a database of mobile phone numbers, email addresses, ZIP codes and financial instituion login credentials, and believes that this is extremely valuable for both mobile payments and mobile marketing.

Firethorn is preloaded and promoted on the mobile Web portals of all the major carriers, meaning the company has a good chance of being visible to almost every U.S. consumer.

Mr. Eads said that when Firethorn can map email addresses and phone numbers to bank accounts, it becomes the “big directory in the sky” that has been missing from mobile payments in the U.S.

Currently for mobile payments, there is no user friendly way for consumers to send money to each other, other than PayPal, that is, which does not have complete coverage.

Automated Clearing House (ACH) is the most common way to transfer funds electronically in the U.S. Routing this transaction requires users to know the bank ID and account number, the numbers listed on the bottom of paper checks.

Most Americans do not know their account number or even carry paper checks anymore. Plus, sharing these numbers is considered risky and invites identity theft.

The mobile payments industry needs a way to map a safe, commonly-known, easily-identifiable ID such as an email address or mobile phone number to arcane ACH bank account information. That looks like exactly what Firethorn and the carriers are doing.

When the Firethorn database hits critical mass, consumers will be able to send money to someone using our mobile phone address books containing email addresses and/or mobile phone numbers.

Mr. Eads said that banks, credit unions, card associations and credit card companies need to think very long and hard about this.

Mobile banking services in the developing world are often provided by the carriers, with only nominal coordination by banks.

Firethorn is providing a single, easy-to-find location to manage all of consumers’ financial accounts and the company is building a key hub for money movement.

Banks need to figure out how they want the payments ecosystem to look or they might just have little influence at all.

“I think this is a wakeup call for the banks,” Mr. Eads said. “They have to move even more quickly.

“Otherwise, carriers can displace the banks in the mobile world,” he said. “Carriers have the opportunity to manage all the mobile financial service interactions with the bank’s customers from checking balances to making payments on a retailer’s mobile Web site.”

Firethorn speaks
Mobile Commerce Daily’s Dan Butcher interviewed Ben Ackerman, vice president of product strategy at Firethorn, Atlanta. Here is what he had to say:

What is Firethorn’s strategy behind the launch of the new Mobile Banking smartphone application?
Firethorn has expanded its Mobile Banking offering so that consumers can access critical bank account information at more banking institutions, enabling them to make well informed financial and purchase decisions while on the go.

Until recently, only customers of Financial Instituions that had integrated Firethorn’s Mobile Banking solution could access their accounts via this mobile platform.

Our goal is to deliver a comprehensive, relevant and secure mobile banking experience to all consumers, which is why we are delivering this new solution.

Firethorn’s strategy is driven by extensive consumer research on consumers’ lifestyles, needs and behaviors.

What is the price point?
The application is free to download.
With which handsets/operating systems is it compatible?
The application is available on a variety of smartphones and feature handsets offered by wireless operators working with Firethorn.

You can go to to see if your phone is compatible.

With which banks does it connect?
Firethorn has expanded its mobile banking solution to allow consumers to now manage their checking, savings and credit card accounts with more than 3,700 U.S. financial institutions using a single mobile application.

You can go to to see a list of financial providers available to consumers.

Is there a mobile payments component?
Once logged in, consumers can check their financial account balances, see their latest transactions, and track if payments have cleared. 

Consumers who have accounts with financial institutions that also offer integrated Firethorn services will benefit from additional transactional capabilities, such as bill pay and funds transfer, as well as the ability to receive and view rewards and offers.

How will Firethorn get the word out about the app? Will there be ads to promote it across the mobile Web or within other apps?
Firethorn is communicating to consumers through the Web site, through the wireless carriers that are promoting this application and through the information available in app stores/marketplaces.

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Dan Butcher is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach him at

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One Response to “Qualcomm’s Firethorn adds thousands of financial institutions to mobile banking platform”

  1. Brandon McGee Says:

    Did you know that you are granting Firethorn power of attorney when you accept their mobile banking terms and conditions?

    “In addition, you hereby grant Firethorn and its service providers a limited power of attorney, and you hereby appoint Firethorn and its service providers as your true and lawful attorney-in-fact”

    I have the story on my Mobile Banking Blog –

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