Mobile Banking in Germany
School of Information Management,
Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
School of Information Management,
Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
One of the first commercial mobile services was mobile banking. This paper
explores the state-of-the-art of m-banking in Germany. It initially presents a brief
discussion of the main characteristics of German banking practices, which is followed
by an overview of the mobile services offered by the top 100 banks in the country. In
addition, a detailed analysis the m-services offered by Postbank, Hamburg's Saving
Bank, and the DZ Bank is presented. Finally, a discussion of the results is guided by a
comparison with the findings obtained in previous studies undertaken in Germany
(Wolf, 2003) Japan (Scornavacca & Barnes, 2004) and New Zealand (Scornavacca &
Cairns, 2005). The paper concludes with a discussion about the future of mobile
banking in Germany.
Keywords: Mobile banking; services; Germany; strategy; m-commerce
The number of mobile phone users worldwide reached the one billion mark in
2002 (Barnes & Huff, 2003). In Japan, already seven out of 10 people have cell-phone
accounts, and in countries such as Italy, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom,
the market penetration of mobile phones has already exceeded 100% (Sultan & Rohm,
One of the first commercial applications of the mobile commerce was mobile
banking (m-banking) (Barnes & Corbitt, 2003; Laukkanen & Lauronen, 2005). M-
banking is a further development upon earlier customer channel extensions such as
phone banking and online banking (Barnes & Corbitt, 2003; Laukkanen & Lauronen,
2005; Pousttchi & Schurig, 2004). It can be defined as a channel whereby customers
interact with a bank through a mobile device (e.g. cell phone or PDA) (Scornavacca &
Recent studies by Scornavacca and Barnes (2004) and Scornavacca and Cairns
(2005) explored the state-of the-art of mobile banking in Japan and New Zealand. The
investigations found that the Japanese banks had recently embarked on a multi-
channel strategy that combined telephone banking, Internet banking, and m-banking
services while in New Zealand m-banking remains in an embryonic stage.
An examination of the current state-of-the-art of mobile banking services in a
European nation such as Germany is an interesting and opportune addition into this
research effort. In Europe, mobile penetration rates are around 80% and Germany is
the largest European mobile market with 50 million mobile users (Forrester, 2005b).
This paper explores the state-of-the-art of m-banking in Germany. A brief
discussion on the main characteristics of German banking system is followed by an
investigation of m-banking services offered by the top 100 German banks. A detailed
analysis of the mobile services offered by three German banks is provided– Postbank,
Hamburg’s Saving Bank, and the DZ Bank. A discussion of the results is guided by a
comparison with previous research done in Germany (Wolf, 2003) Japan
(Scornavacca & Barnes, 2004) and New Zealand (Scornavacca & Cairns, 2005). The
paper concludes with a discussion about the future of mobile banking in Germany.
2. The German Banking Environment
Germany’s banking industry embraces more than 2,200 credit institutions,
representing 30% of the European Union's total (Economist, 2004). On average, in
Germany there are about 60 bank branches for every 100,000 inhabitants. Other
European nations such as Britain, Finland, Ireland and Sweden average at most 25
branches per 100,000 (Economist, 2004).
Figure 1 illustrates the German banking system. It consists of three main
categories: private banks, saving banks, and co-operative banks.
Figure 1: German banking system
Measured by the market capitalisation, the top four German banks are private
financial institutions Deutsche Bank, Dresdner Bank, Hypovereinsbank (HVB), and
Commerzbank (Bank, 2004). These global players offer services to private and
corporate customers and earn a reasonable share of their profits from their investment
banking activities (Economist, 2004). It is interesting to notice that these top four
German Banks only account for 4.5 percent of all saving deposits in Germany
(Economist, 2004). Figure 2 shows the distribution of savings deposits held in 2003.
Figure 2: Savings deposits at German banks (Economist, 2004)
The saving banks (Sparkassen) represent the biggest share of the domestic
German market, holding 50.8 percent of all saving deposits in Germany at their 500
saving banks (Economist, 2004). The size of each saving bank varies due to their
location and customer numbers. Saving banks in large cities tend to have large
customer bases and vast saving deposits while saving banks in rural areas tend to be
The third category of the German banking system consists of 1400 co-operative
banks that account for 30 percent of all deposits in the country. The DZ-Bank was
formed in 2002 and acts as a “Central bank” for the co-operative banks. Traditionally
co-operatives concentrate on private customers as well as SME’s.
2.1 Banking in Germany
German banks distribute their products via multi-channels (Bahadur, Desmet & v.
Bommel, 2005). According to Forrester’s Research (2005a), 84 % of German
consumers make use of Automatic Teller Machines (ATM) - the most popular
transaction channel. Banks have recognised this trend and reacted with strategic
alliances. For instance large private banks such as Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank,
Dresdner Bank, Hypovereinsbank, and the Postbank have established an alliance
called “cashgroup”. This enables bank customers to withdraw money without paying
extra fees at 7,000 ATM’s throughout Germany (Cashgroup, 2005). Similar alliances
have been made among saving banks as well as co-operative banks. Figure 3 presents
the usage of the most common banking channels in Germany.
Figure 3: How German consumer use banking channels (Forrester, 2005a)
Online banking is utilized by only 30 percent of consumers (Forrester, 2005a). On
the other hand, 52 percent of them still rely on traditional physical branch services to
satisfy their banking needs – despite the fact that automated channels such as ATM’s
or online banking offer lower transaction fees (Forrester, 2005a).
3. Mobile Banking in Germany
This section examines the m-banking channel in detail. It is divided into four parts.
First, it is explained how customers access banking services through a mobile phone
in Germany. Second, an overview of the services provided by the top 100 banks is
provided. This is followed by a detailed analysis of the m-services offered by the
following banks: Postbank, Hamburg's Saving Bank, and the DZ Bank. Finally, a
summary of the available services is drawn.
3.1. Accessing m-banking services
In order to access m-banking services, customers should own a mobile handset
and subscribe to a wireless service provider (WSP). In Germany, there are four major
wireless services providers: T-mobile, Vodafone, E-Plus, and O2. Figure 4 illustrates
the market share of each player (Solon, 2005).
Figure 4: Market share of German wireless service providers (Solon, 2005)
All German WSPs have recently introduced 3G/UMTS services. The new data
transmission rates appear to close the existing gap between “wired” Internet access
and mobile Internet. For instance E-Plus offers a “flatrate” for unlimited data
transmission with transfer rates up to 384 Kbits/s (E-Plus, 2006). Apart from general
data/network usage none of these four network providers charges customers for m-
banking services separately. Figure 5 illustrates how mobile banking services are
accessed by German customers. All of the banks have websites that can be viewed
from any device, independently of the wireless service provider.
Figure 5: Accessing m-banking services in Germany
3.2. An overview of the m-services offered by the top 100 German banks
Based on Bank’s (2004) list of the top 100 banks in Germany a large research
effort was undertaken in order to identify the mobile banking services offered by each
of those banks. All one-hundred banks websites were carefully scrutinized and an
additional key-word search was completed. As a result, 30 of the 100 banks
investigated were identified to be offering some kind of mobile service. Interestingly,
almost half of them (14) were only offering the service of recharge of mobile prepaid
cards. Moreover, two banks only offered to their customers a service that can hardly
fit in the definition of m-banking: the download of “ringtones”.
Figure 6 shows the total number of m-banking services offered by the top 100
German banks. It should be noticed that SMS-banking- and mobile banking services
are listed separately although both fit into the definition of m-banking services.
m-banking services offered by the top 100 top German banks
only charge of
Banks ringtone: 2
m-banking services: 11
simplistic sms notification services: 3
only charge of customers prepaid cards: 14
Banks ringtone: 2
Figure 6: M-banking services offered by the top 100 German banks
Surprisingly only 14 German financial institutions allow their clients to interact
via the mobile channel. Three out of these 14 (Citibank, Sparda Bank Baden
Wuerttemberg and Spada Bank Suedwest) offered very simplistic SMS-notification
services. Most banks do not charge customers extra fees for SMS services.
It is interesting to compare these results with findings of previous research
undertaken in Germany on m-banking availability (Wolf, 2003). Although Wolf
(2003) focused on risks of IS and its management, she identified 24 German banks
that offered mobile banking services to its customers in 2003. Table 1 compares the
findings of Wolf’s (2003) and this research effort. Two banks identified by Wolf
(2003) were excluded from this list since one (Deutsche Bank 24) no longer exist the
other (Nassauische Sparkasse) does not belongs to the top 100 German banks list.
Observe that between 2003 and 2006 only seven banks have integrated m-banking
services to their portfolio. During the same period, 15 banks have closed their mobile
channel to their customers (including the top four private banks - Deutsche Bank,
Dresdner Bank, Hypovereinsbank, and Commerzbank).
Table 1: German banks offering mobile services in 2006
2003 (Wolf, 2003)
Hamburger Sparkasse Yes Yes
Kreissparkasse Koeln Yes Yes
Postbank AG Yes Yes
Sparkasse Krefeld Yes Yes
Stadt- und Kreissparkasse Leipzig Yes Yes
Stadtsparkasse Muenchen Yes Yes
DZ Bank (DGZ Deka Bank previously) Yes Yes
Wuestenrot Bausparkasse, Ludwigsburg No Yes
Bremer Landesbank No Yes
Landesbank Saar No Yes
Citibank AG No Yes
Sparda Bank Baden Wuerttemberg,
Stuttgart No Yes
Sparda Bank Suedwest, Mainz No Yes
Baden Wuerttembergische Bank AG Yes No
Bankgesellschaft Berlin AG Yes No
Bayerische Hypo-und Vereinsbank AG Yes No
Berlin-Hannoversche Hypothekenbank AG Yes No
Bfg Bank AG/SEB AG Yes No
Commerzbank AG Yes No
Deutsche Bank (24)/AG Yes No
Dresdner Bank AG Yes No
Frankfurter Sparkasse (1822) Yes No
Landesbank Baden Wuerttemberg Yes No
Norddeutsche Landesbank Girozentrale Yes No
Oldenburgische Landesbank AG Yes No
Stadtsparkasse Dortmund Yes No
Sparkasse Nuernberg Yes No
Volkswagen Financial Services Yes No
Total banks offering m-banking services
The data on Table 1 indicates a clear downward trend on the availability of m-
banking services in Germany. Unfortunately there is no evidence why and for what
reasons many banks have abandoned their services. Deutsche Bank, for instance,
argued that it cancelled its m-banking activities due to the lack of customers’ use
(Stein, 2004). Perhaps many German banks were mislead into a “mobile hype” and
rolled out their m-banking services in a premature stage – at a time that users were not
familiar with mobile services and the technological platform had far too may
limitations such as ease of operation, security for transactions, costs, display type, and
the relatively impoverished WAP sites. Perhaps the German banking industry may
soon redevelop a stronger m-banking channel as the technological platform moves to
3.3. Examples of m-banking services available in Germany
This section investigates m-banking services offered by three different banks. One
bank from each “category” (Figure 2) was selected: Postbank (representing private
banks), Hamburg’s savings bank (Haspa) (representing saving banks), and DZ Bank
(representing co-operatives banks). The selection criteria were primarily based on the
importance of each organization in its own category and availability of m-banking
The Postbank was originally a State owned bank and a subsidiary of the Deutsche
Post. Only recently it has been separated from the Deutsche Post - however both
companies still maintain a joint sales strategy. As a result, Postbank is offering its
services and products in over 9,000 branches. Additionally, it maintains 780 Postbank
Centres, where customers are serviced by over 2,000 specially trained financial
service advisors. The Postbank has positioned itself as a multi-channel bank by adding
online, phone, and mobile banking to branch banking in order to provide customers
with easier access through all channels.
One way to reach customers is the m-banking / m-brokerage channel. Postbank
offers the following services:
• Checking account balances
• Checking transaction status quo plus information on previous transactions
• Executing fund transfers / transactions
• Checking credit card information
• Account maintenance and administration
• PIN alteration and TAN lock out for the respective bank account
• Checking stock prices
• Checking custody account information
• Displaying custody accounts as chart pictures
• Re-ordering or re-selling shares
• Buying shares on the German stock exchanges
• Buying and sell investment trusts
• Subscription for upcoming IPO’s
• Checking custody order information
• PIN alteration and TAN lock out for the respective custody account
If customers are registered as online customers they do not need to register separately
for m-banking services. Postbank does not charge extra fees for its mobile services
except the SMS notification services.
Figure 7 shows the Postbank’s m-banking services logon screen (A) as well as the
Postbank mobile menu (B) that users can retrieve on their mobile devices. Customers
can choose between the following options: a) mobile banking, b) mobile brokerage, c)
ATM/branch locator, d) security policies.
A- Logon screen
B- Main menu
Figure 7: Postbank’s m-banking logon screen
Postbank also offers a SMS notification service. Customers access their online
bank accounts through the Internet and set up the SMS notification services. Figure 8
illustrates Postbank’s SMS notification services.
Notifications can be setup for
the following situations:
• Incoming transfer into
current or saving account
• The account balance falls
below a fixed limit
• Stocks top or fall below a
• Stock order has been
• A defined account
movement has happened
Figure 8: Postbank’s SMS notification services
Postbank charges nine EUR cents per SMS and customers can set up whether they
want recurring services or just use it once. Additionally Postbank offers a download
link for customers to install software onto their mobile devices for offline account
administration. This software is called “StarMoney Mobile 2.0” and Postbank
promotes it in conjunction to T-mobile (Postbank, 2006).
3.3.2. Hamburger Sparkasse (Hamburg saving bank)
The Hamburger Sparkasse (Haspa) looks back to its history of 178 years offering
banking services. Haspa is the biggest German saving bank and counts 5,800
employees while holding total assets of 31.3 billion as per 31.12.2004 (Haspa, 2006).
Over 50 percent of Hamburg’s citizens hold an account with Haspa.
Like Postbank, Haspa offers a wide range of mobile-banking services:
• Checking account balances
• Checking transaction status and information on previous transactions
• Executing transactions
• SMS messages orders (open text) for various inquiries such as new address
• PIN alteration and TAN lockout for the respective account
• Checking stock prices
• Checking custody account information
Haspa also provides customers with a comprehensive manual for its mobile and
3.3.3. Co-operative banks
The DZ BANK was formed by merging the two co-operative central banks GZ-
Bank and DG BANK on 1st September 2001 (DZ, 2006). It is the fifth largest bank in
Germany and acts as the central bank for approximately 1,200 Volks- and
Raiffeisenbanken (Co-operatives). DZ Bank offers relevant products for co-operative
banks and coordinates their services in order to optimise operating processes. The co-
operatives are organised as alliances and offer their services throughout most German
states. The co-operatives banks are generally used by private customers and SME’s.
The DZ Bank maintains a central Internet portal (http://www.vr-networld.de) where
customers can retrieve information about products offered by each of the co-operative
The DZ Bank itself does not provide any mobile banking services as it only acts as
a headquarter/hub for all co-operative banks. However, its portal (VR networld) offers
the following services which can be accessed by customer of co-operative banks.
Services available on mobile phones:
• Account balances
• Transaction status quo plus information on previous transactions
• Password administration
Additional services available for wireless PDAs
• Fund transfers / transactions
• Transaction templates
• PIN alteration and lock out for the respective bank account
The convergence given by one portal for all co-operative banks allowed the DZ
Bank to provide a consistent and efficient service for its customers. The following
section summarises the m-banking services of these three banks.
3.4. Summary of M-banking services in Germany
The case studies of the three German banks revealed that each bank has integrated
mobile banking into a multi-channel strategy that includes branch banking, Internet
banking, phone banking, and mobile banking services. Still, the portfolio of services
offered by each of the banks varies significantly - especially since the Postbank offers
by far more services than Haspa or DZ Bank. In addition the software-alliance
between Postbank and T-mobile is providing an interesting value proposition which
combines online and offline applications. Table 2 summarises the m-banking services
offered by each of the three banks investigated above.
Table 2: Summary of m-banking services provided by German banks
Services Postbank Haspa DZ Bank
Check account balance Yes Yes Yes
Check transaction status quo plus information on
previous transactions Yes Yes Yes
Fund transfers / transactions Yes Yes PDA only
Check credit card information Yes No No
Account maintenance and administration Yes Yes PDA only
PIN alteration and TAN lock out for the respective bank
account Yes Yes PDA only
Check stock prices Yes Yes No
Check custody account information Yes Yes No
Display custody accounts as chart pictures Yes No No
Re-order or re-sell shares Yes No No
Buy shares on the German stock exchanges Yes No No
Buy and sell investment trusts Yes No No
Subscription for upcoming IPO’s Yes No No
Check custody order information Yes No No
PIN alteration and TAN lock out for the respective
Yes Yes No
4. A strategic perspective on German m-banking services
Now that the nature of m-banking services in Germany has been considered, the
strategic implications of these services for both banks and customers can be evaluated.
4.1. Strategic development model
Scornavacca and Barnes (2004) applied Barnes’ (2003) m-banking strategic model
(see Figure 9) to the Japanese m-banking market. Subsequently, Scornavacca and
Cairns (2005) used the same model in their research in the New Zealand market place.
Barnes’ (2003) m-banking strategic model categorises the potential development of
m-banking services in different markets according to the penetration of mobile
telecommunications and personal computer technology. It certainly provides a useful
and incisive platform for assessing the German experience.
Figure 9: Strategic model for m-banking-Germany
(Adopted from Scornavacca and Barnes, 2004)
Even though the information and communication technologies are well developed
in Germany, most German bank costumers still rely on traditional branch banking. It
is interesting to observe that most German banks have implemented a multiple
channel strategy to interact with their customers – offering branch banking, ATM
services as well as online- and telephone banking (Forrester, 2005a).
In 2004 the PC penetration rate in Germany was 48 percent while 42 percent of all
Germans had access to the Internet (ITU, 2004). The online banking channel is
already being utilised by 30 percent of German bank consumers (Forrester, 2005a).
Not surprisingly all 100 banks investigated have web-portals to service customers or
inform them about their services. This development from traditional banking to online
banking is shown in the Figure 9 by the move from step 1 to 2. Interestingly
Scornavacca and Cairns (2005) identified the same development in the New Zealand
environment, while in Japan mobile banking followed the traditional branch banking
(Scornavacca & Barnes, 2004).
While the level of m-banking services offered in Germany is still at a stage of
infancy, the high penetration rate of mobile devices in Germany is creating an
extraordinary opportunity for banks to leverage the benefits of mobility. Perhaps the
German banking industry is primed to soon develop a stronger m-banking channel as
the technological platform moves to 3G. This is illustrated by the move to step 3 in
the figure above.
It is then likely that banks will adopt a multi-channel strategy. Such an approach
can be called Channel Extension, where banks incorporate multiple channels
including traditional, online and mobile banking (step 4).
4.2. Strategic benefit framework
The strategic benefits of m-banking services in Germany are another aspect of
service development worthy of further investigation. To this end, Barnes (2003b)
provides a simple framework for evaluating the direct and indirect strategic benefits
from m-banking. In all, there are five main types of benefits. This framework was also
previously used to analyse the direct and indirect strategic benefits from m-banking in
Japan (Scornavacca and Barnes, 2004) and New Zealand (Scornavacca and Cairns,
2005). Table 3 applies the strategic framework to the German example, examining the
indirect and direct benefits of Postbank, Hamburger Sparkasse, and DZ Bank whether
such benefits are apparent in each of the banks.
Table 3: The strategic benefits of German m-banking services
8 8 8
8 8 8
9 9 9
99 9 9
8 8 8
Key: 8 = no evidence; 9 = low; 99 = medium; 999 = high
As Table 3 demonstrates, the main beneficiaries of m-banking services in
Germany are the customers. The data analysed provide no evidence the German banks
generated benefits through cross selling as well as cheaper customer acquisition. By
contrast, in Japan Scornavacca & Barnes (2004) identified cross selling benefits as
they were distributing wider product ranges through their m-banking applications.
There is also no evidence of cost reduction, though this could have occurred. It is
likely though that as the m-banking channel develops and user numbers increase there
will be a resultant cost reduction for banks.
At a nominal cost, customers receive an extra banking channel with varying
services. Each bank currently offers different services, with Postbank dominating in
terms of services offered. By contrast, in Japan there has been a swift replication of
mobile service offerings among banks which has created a levelled playing field
(Scornavacca & Barnes, 2004). At the moment, the uneven playing field in Germany
presents an opportunity for each respective bank to leverage benefits. This attains
particularly to Postbank as the market leader, but also to the other banks that may seek
to enter a niche market. A similar situation was found by Scornavacca & Cairns (2005)
in the New Zealand marketplace.
There is some indicative evidence that any of the banks have implemented an m-
banking strategy to promote customer loyalty. By offering another banking channel,
the banks are making their services more accessible for their existing customers
(whether or not it causes a reduction in the banks own costs).
The German m-banking market is still in a stage of relative infancy. In
comparison with Scornavacca & Barnes’ (2004) study, clearly, the German m-
banking portfolio is far less developed than its Japanese counterparts. However, the
German m-banking portfolio is a few steps ahead of its counterparts in New Zealand
(Scornavacca & Cairns, 2005).
Since Wolf’s research in 2003 only seven banks have integrated m-banking
services to their portfolio. During the same period, 15 banks have closed their mobile
channel to their customers - despite the massive proliferation of mobile devices in
Germany during the same period. Surprisingly even major private banks such as
Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, Dresdner Bank, and Hypovereinsbank have
abandoned their m-banking activities since 2003.
Currently, in Germany, only 14 banks out of a hundred banks studied offer m-
banking to their customers. These 14 banks all have a very distinct strategy and
present a diverse range of services. These services are provided to customers
independently of the wireless services providers.
Of the three banks’ portfolios analysed, Postbank offers the most comprehensive
service. In addition it is the only bank that developed an alliance with a mobile carrier
(T-Mobile). On the other hand, Hamburger Sparkasse and DZ Bank offer a quite
limited and similar m-services portfolio. Scornavacca & Cairns (2005) also found in
New Zealand a similar market situation with one bank leading m-banking
developments in the country.
Since Germany has a high level of mobile penetration, the foundation for a more
comprehensive m-banking market has already been laid. It is therefore, likely that m-
banking will develop at a more rapid pace in future years. As m-banking continues to
develop, and with the strength of online banking in Germany, it is likely that m-
banking will become a part of a multi-channel strategy. New billing plans such as the
E-Plus “flat-rate” for unlimited data transmission offer new opportunities for
customers as well as for banks (E-Plus, 2006). So far banking transactions conducted
on mobile device had been expensive for customers. If “mobile flat-rates” become
widely accepted in Germany consumer patterns may change and cause an increase in
demand of m-banking services. The emergence of low cost Internet flat-rates in
combination with high PC penetration rates in Europe encouraged banking customers
to use the online channel (Barnes, 2003). Perhaps the same trend may happen with the
The next three years will provide important evidence regarding the future of m-
banking in Germany. Besides the recent introduction of 3G devices, there is
considerable speculation regarding future integration between wireless service
providers and financial institutions. Based on the lessons learned from the initial
“mobile hype”, the German banking industry may soon develop a much stronger and
sustainable m-banking channel for its customers.
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