British bank Standard Chartered is replacing the Blackberry, currently its standard corporate communication device, with the iPhone, a move that could eventually result in thousands of its bankers switching to the Apple device for business communication on the go.
Standard Chartered bankers in Asia told Reuters that the London-based lender was giving its corporate Blackberry users the option of switching to the iPhone, with the company agreeing to continue to pay monthly billing for business-related telephone and data services.
"It's a group-wide initiative involving wholesale and consumer banks globally," said a Singapore-based spokeswoman for Standard Chartered, told Reuters.
The process of migrating corporate email services from the Blackberry to the iPhone started about a month ago, said the spokeswoman, although she did not know how many of the Asia-focused bank's 75,000 employees used company-issued Blackberries or when the switchover could be completed.
Bankers at other financial institutions such as HSBC Holdings Plc and Morgan Stanley have so far been restricted to the Blackberry as the standard device issued by their firms for business communications. Despite some indications of change, it may take time for a broader switch to take place, mainly because of security concerns, according to financial professionals and information technology analysts.
"If more companies switch to the iPhone, this is of course bad news for RIM," said Lu Chialin, an IT industry analyst at Macquarie Securities in Taipei. "However, it will take a long time for companies to do their own internal testing before deciding to change, so it will be a while before it has any effect on RIM."
Blackberries, from Canada's Research in Motion, are the device of choice for bankers and executives who need regular access to email and the Internet when outside the office.
RIM had the biggest share of the U.S. smartphone market at 36 percent, ahead of handsets running Google's Android operating system with 28 percent and Apple with 21 percent, according to a recent study by NPB Group.
Singapore-headquartered Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp began offering its staff the choice of Blackberry or iPhone about a year ago, although most of its bankers have so far stuck to their Blackberries.
Some small, privately-held financial companies in Asia have also started allowing employees to port corporate emails to their personal iPhones on request, bankers and asset managers told Trading China, a Thomson Reuters online community for financial professionals focusing on the Greater China market.
The biggest issue for most companies choosing telephone and email hardware is data encryption, said Macquarie's Lin.
"RIM has a system that is more effective than most other handset makers, so if there is a shift towards the iPhone it's not going to happen overnight but rather a slow and gradual change." he said.