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Consumer Research

Mobile Financial Services

Last Updated: July 24, 2023

The FDIC conducted qualitative research on the potential for mobile financial services (MFS) to increase economic inclusion for underserved consumers. The 2017 National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households found that in 2016, approximately four out of five (83.2 percent) of underbanked households—those that have an account but also obtain financial services from nonbank alternative financial services—have access to a smartphone, and that nearly half (46.1 percent) of these households had used mobile banking in the previous year.

From May to July 2015, the FDIC conducted a total of eighteen consumer focus groups over two rounds in three metropolitan areas of different sizes. In the first round, eight groups were conducted in Memphis, TN and Los Angeles, CA; in the second round, ten groups were conducted in Kansas City, MO, and Los Angeles. Two Spanish language groups were included in each round. All of the focus groups targeted underserved consumers and all focus group participants owned smartphones.

In the second phase, the FDIC conducted structured, in-depth interviews with industry and consumer organization executives about how their institutions are addressing mobile financial services and underserved consumers, and their reactions to the consumer focus group findings. Telephone interviews were conducted between November 2015 through January 2016 with representatives from eleven financial service institutions and consumer groups.

Study Results

Major Findings

  • Consumers make trade-offs when selecting financial services or products based on a set of financial services needs that are important at a given time
    • Control over finances
    • Access to money
    • Convenience
    • Affordability
    • Security
    • Customer service
    • Long-term financial management
  • Banks were perceived as strong in some areas, such as security and customer service, but weak in others, including control over finances and access to funds
  • Mobile banking helps meet consumer needs in areas where traditional banking is perceived to be weak. It improves the convenience of banking services, consumers’ control over finances, and in some cases the affordability of banking services
  • Banks can implement MFS in ways that better meet the needs of underserved consumers
    • Increase consumer control over finances by improving access to timely account information
    • Expedite access to money
    • Make banking more affordable through better account management
    • Address real and perceived security shortfalls
    • Increase awareness of mobile tools
    • Encourage long-term financial management


White Paper:Assessing the Economic Inclusion Potential of Mobile Financial Services

Presentation:Qualitative Research on Mobile Financial Service for Underserved Consumers

Economic Inclusion Initiatives at the FDIC