UK financial firms shouldn’t await technology upgrades to reset their wireless finance goals, according to a new report by Forrester Research (Nasdaq: FORR). Forrester asserts that firms experienced in WAP finance will stand to win over wireless virgins if they bridge the gap to future wireless transactions with mobile-specific, simple, integrated services that drive traffic.

“Finance firms so far have simply extended Web content onto WAP, as a micro-version of today¿s PC-Web services, and very few have built on mobile’s core properties — as a personal and timely device,” said Forrester Analyst Charlotte Hamilton. “By focusing on WAP transactions, firms are ignoring the 90% of 34 million Britons whose mobile phones aren¿t WAP-enabled. Firms must realize that mainstream customers will mature slowly on the mobile. Instead, they must set a new agenda for their wireless strategies — bridging the gap between the limitations of today’s leading-edge but immature WAP technology and future wireless transactions by adopting today’s mobile realities.”

To capture the immediate potential of wireless services — keeping the platform’s specificity, the benefit of simplicity, and the education imperative in mind — Forrester believes that UK firms must create a mobile channel that complements existing ones instead of building a pale replica of the PC Web. Finance firms should deliver mobile services like timely alerts that other channels perform less well. They should participate in opt-in SMS marketing campaigns and sponsor popular mobile games and content. Crucially, at this early stage, finance firms shouldn’t try to force users to stay on the mobile channel to complete a transaction — they must enable their call centers so that agents can interact with customers via SMS or WAP push, as well as use traditional phone or email communications.

“Bridging from simple alerts to financial transactions will take time,” Hamilton added. “But mobility is an unstoppable trend and, unlike PC-Web developments, mobile budgets will stay within five to six digits. Finance firms shouldn’t abandon today’s WAP platforms but they should redirect efforts to simpler and better-integrated services. Firms should enable call centers with SMS to drive WAP transactions with prompted alerts. This will prepare users for push services over GPRS in 2003, letting customers request a WAP page, input a four-digit PIN, and execute a transaction like a money transfer in two steps. Conversely, firms without WAP services should immediately start simple mobile interactions like an SMS marketing campaign to win new customers like student accounts. But many mobile laggards will be tempted to wait for device- and WAP-independent wireless technologies on GPRS like mobile Java and HTML to build transactions integrated with the PC Web — but they should beware of delaying their mobile channel creation.”