Remember when stopping at the bank was something we had to do every once in a while. Neither do we. But apparently at one time people chose their bank if it was located on the right-hand side of the street on the drive home from work. Today a customer is likely to choose their bank if it has a hot new app in the "app store."

Although still in the early stages of development and adoption, mobile banking has already had a tremendous impact on the way we manage our finances. And innovations in software and hardware technology have disrupted how banks conduct their day-to-day business with us. For many in the stodgy, regulated, risk-filled business of managing other people's money, change has been slow to come. But as competition heats up to attract and retain customers in a mobile-centric world, many banks are now venturing outside their usual comfort zone. Until the dust settles we should expect to see quite a few changes, although not all for the better.

Back when a visit to the bank was how we made deposits and withdrawals, the biggest security concerns we had to face were don't get robbed (rare) and don't lose your wallet (also rare). Nowadays if you lose your cell phone (actually not so rare) you may be at risk of losing a lot more than your selfies and your text messages. The steady rise in mobile banking and mobile payment technologies is contributing to a new generation of consumers who rely on mobile banking apps. All too often they view those apps as not much different than the latest version of Flappy Bird. And all too often the device that we carry is even less secure than our wallets. You can only carry a limited amount of cash in a wallet; with mobile banking applications you carry it all!

So both the consumer and the bank must work together to ensure that the device, the application and especially the data that we now transfer so freely remains accurate, private and secure. Banks need to strike a balance between ease of use for the consumer versus security that is not just "good enough." Too much emphasis on security will make apps frustrating and slow. Customers will seek better alternatives. Too little security invites a breach, with reputation risk and potential lawsuits to follow. Banks need to ensure that in their rush to attract and retain customers they find the sweet spot. And banking customers must do their part to ensure that the security features that are offered by their banks are used properly and not bypassed.

Mobile banking has not seen the major security breach that credit cards have experienced in the past. Time will tell if the industry can avoid that fate. In the meantime, banks must take a proactive approach to protecting the data and the networks against the inevitable bad actors who will try to exploit them. Consumers must do their part by developing best-practice mobile banking habits to ensure they keep their accounts safe and secure.

Here are some basic ideas that you should follow if you use your mobile device for banking:

  • Password, fingerprint or swipe-pattern protect your device - no one should be able to pick up your phone and have access to your most sensitive applications.
  • Enable device security to wipe your device clean if lost - and know how to access it quickly.
  • Do not keep passwords on the device or in the clear - after all, we don't keep our ATM Card pin on the back of our ATM Card, do we?
  • Practice situational awareness; secure your phone at all times - don't leave it on the table, the bar or the sink in the restroom!
  • Be aware of your surroundings whenever you conduct banking business - hide your data and your security features.
  • Ensure that your phone and apps are the latest most secure versions - updates are released for a reason!

Mobile banking is a great convenience. Don't let the convenience hide the risks ineherent in the technology. That is how we all can keep mobile banking safe and secure.