Monday, November 25, 2013

My Digital Banking Nirvana

Last week, I was fortunate enough to be one of the keynote speakers at the inaugural Next Bank Sydney. In preparation for my presentation entitled, 'My Digital Banking Nirvana', I looked globally for mobile banking applications that were the best at being simple, encouraging engagement and being contextual.

With help from the team at Mapa Research, I came up with almost 30 components for my perfect mobile banking relationship from every region of the world. Some were completely unique, while others were mobile applications that multiple financial institutions provide.

Link to my Next Bank Sydney presentation, My Digital Banking Nirvana on SlideShare here

What Makes a Great Mobile Banking Application

In many ways, there is no difference between what makes a great mobile banking application and what makes a great non-banking mobile application. The key components are:
        • Simplicity: Does the app replace a non-mobile process I do often? Does it make my daily life easier? Is it easy to use? In the non-banking world, I love the KeyRing application because it stores multiple loyalty cards in one place on my mobile phone, eliminating the need to carry plastic cards. The app also links to digital offers I can redeem without cutting coupons.
        • Engagement: Does the application stimulate positive interaction, and build a better application from this engagement? For me, my Marriott mobile application does a great job. Beyond providing the standard ability to make reservations and check my loyalty balances, it also allows me to check in early, receive notifications when my room is ready and informs me about special offers through multiple channels.
        • Contextual: One of the benefits of a mobile application vs. an online tool is the ability to provide value based on where I am located. My favorite app from a contextual perspective is OpenTable. Using locational functionality, OpenTable provides suggestions of restaurants based on my current location and previous dining experiences. Reward points are provided for using the app and starting next year, the app will also allow me to pay for my meal using my phone and the OpenTable application.
So, which mobile banking applications meet one or more of the above criteria and could become part of my digital banking nirvana? As could be expected, this list is fluid, since new innovations are being introduced every week, replacing previous applications that were once best-in-class.

Mobile Banking 'Basics'

As an active mobile banking user, there is some functionality that must be the foundation for my best-in-class mobile banking relationship. First of all, as covered in a recent blog post entitled, Banking Innovation for the Fat-Fingered, leveraging mobile imaging technology and my phone's photo capability simplifies mobile banking by removing keystrokes and improving accuracy. Therefore, I expect my future mobile bank to provide the following:
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In addition to leveraging the photo capabilities of my phone to simplify my banking, I would prefer to eliminate many of my password and authentication steps, while not having to worry about security issues. One potential solution is to integrate Capital One's new SureSwipe login feature into my new mobile banking relationship. With SureSwipe, I remember a pattern as opposed to passwords, making my login easier as shown in this humorous video.

I also do not want to go through a series of authentication steps just to see the balance in my account. In the U.S., GoBank provides me the opportunity to see my balances with a simple swipe of the finger. GoBank is still one of the few banks in the U.S. to provide this instant balance feature, even though Mapa Research found close to 20% of major banks worldwide offing this functionality.

Banks overseas offering a similar capability included Commonwealth Bank's Kaching, Swedbank's 'balance shake' and Bank of New Zealand's mobile app that allows you to see your entire relationship without a full login.
Other benefits of GoBank I would like to include as part of my digital banking nirvana include having a wide range of customized alerts, a negotiable monthly fee, and their 'fortune teller' that informs me when I might be spending money I will need later. (I covered the reasons I like GoBank in a Financial Brand blog post here)

Going a step further, I would prefer not to type any information at all into my phone for basic mobile banking. If I had USAA's Virtual Assistant powered by Nuance, that would be possible since members are able to use voice commands to perform basic banking tasks. Nuance is also testing a similar solution at U.S. Bank.

Mobile Payment Applications

Beyond the basics, no other functionality of mobile banking is as important as payments. Despite high industry attractiveness and relatively low consumer acceptance (in the US at least), mobile payments is the Holy Grail of mobile banking and is the potential tipping point in the battle between bank and non-bank providers. From making payments to tracking payments, the diversity of payment applications globally is exciting.

One of the most comprehensive mobile payment applications is from Commonwealth Bank in Australia. The CommBank Kaching application provides the ability to make P2P payments by bumping phones with another person, using a mobile phone number or email address, or even through Facebook. For bill or merchant payments, QR codes can be used and NFC payments are supported with internal Android functionality and with a CommBank Paytag on iOS devices.
CommBank Kaching Mobile Payments Functionality
Once payments are made, some of the best mobile receipt capabilities I have seen have come from the new banking competition in the U.S. I am a user and a fan of the Moven digital receipt capability that provides me real-time feedback on my PayPass or debit card purchases as well as contextual transaction insights (the application also has spend tracking to compare spending to previous periods and the ability to pay friends by email, mobile or via Facebook).

It would also be nice to include the ability to add pictures to my receipts as offered by Simple in addition to having real-time adjustments to my safe-to-spend and budgeting insight. Simple also provides a very comprehensive search capability that can assist the tracking of spending using 'Google-like' queries or hashtags for spending categorization. Poland's mBank also provides transaction search capability using Google-like queries supported by the excellent Meniga PFM platform.
Simple Real-Time Receipts with Safe-to-Spend 

 Simplified Budgeting

I understand that my mobile phone is not the best platform for enhanced budgeting, but I still want to be able to track how I am doing each month using my mobile device as an adjunct to the online banking capability on my desktop. This requires striking a very careful balance between form and functionality.

As I mentioned, I am a fan of both Moven and Simple for their tracking and budgeting capabilities. Both allow me to see my financial position compared to previous periods and utilize a mobile-first design. The visualization of spending behavior is excellent with the use of easy to understand graphs on both the online and mobile platforms.

For me, one of the best personal financial management (PFM) tools has been developed by MoneyDesktop. Using some of the most advanced user interface design capabilities in the industry, their MoneyMobile solution takes some of the best functionality from their online application and creates an excellent visual interface for mobile devices.
MoneyDesktop Mobile PFM Solution

Channel Integration

As much as I am looking for the ultimate mobile banking experience, I realize that mobile may not be the best channel for all of my interactions with my bank. In those instances when I want to use online banking tools, talk to a customer service representative or visit a branch, I still use the same criteria of simplicity, positive engagement and contextual functionality.

As I travel between online, mobile and my tablet, I don't want to relearn how to conduct my banking. While I may want added functionality that takes advantage of the tactile and interactive benefits of the tablet or the expanded canvas of the desktop computer, I want the 'feel' of the experience to be similar.

Westpac New Zealand recently introduced an excellent device agnostic solution  that provides a similar look and feel across devices. In addition to using a responsive design (making the look conform to the device and how the device is held), the use of a 'central platform' will simplify changes in the future.
WestPac Device Agnostic Central Platform
When I have a problem with my account, the last thing I want to do is search for the appropriate phone number for customer service or wait until I get home. Therefore, the ability to have an integrated customer service capability within my mobile banking application is a must.

NatWest and RBS were the first two banks in the U.K. to offer in-app, real-time customer service whereby a customer can initiate a conversation with a dedicated Mobile Chat advisor. In addition, ING has a mobile application that allows for direct appointment setting with a specific agent in a few easy steps.
NatWest Mobile Chat
Going one step further, Turkey-based Akbank became the first bank to offer video chat. Customers can make a one-click video call from within the bank's online banking site to one of the bank's video enabled service agents. No additional software is needed and the application will soon work on Android and iOS devices as well.
Akbank Video Chat
Finally, for those potential instances I may want to use a branch, the traditional branch just doesn't meet my needs. I want to be in and out as quickly as possible and most likely won't need to see a teller. Banks globally are trying to address this change in customer behavior by scaling back traditional transaction-centric branches and replacing them with either advisory-centric units or technology-enabled branches that leverage video and advanced transaction capabilities.

National Australia Bank (NAB) recently opened their first 'Smart Store' where traditional tellers have been replaced by full service machines. These new branches take less space, will potentially have longer hours and are geared to the lifestyles and digital-savvy nature of Customer 3.0. (This new branch format was covered by The Financial Brand here)

Expanded Mobile Functionality

As with any avid mobile banking user, I want even more from my mobile banking experience than just basic transactions, payments and basic money management. For instance, I have definitely come to enjoy my PNC Bank ATM/Branch Finder, that uses augmented reality to allow my phone to search and find facilities through the screen on my phone. Interestingly, while I find the app useful, I am intrigued as to why the app isn't integrated into my normal mobile banking application (PNC Finder is a separate app).

With the demise of most points programs associated with debit card usage, more elaborate (and potentially more lucrative) merchant-funded rewards programs have taken their place. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these programs require a proactive opt-in on an offer level basis and are connected with the online banking relationship as opposed to mobile banking. This makes taking advantage of any rewards cumbersome at best and downright maddening most of the time.

To address this problem and to provide locational rewards using my phone's GPS capability, Cardlytics is enhancing their merchant-funded reward program in early 2014 to include a much more user-friendly rewards program that will provide offers based on where the customer is located. This functionality is already available from American Express with their My Offers program that leverages both transaction history (what I do) with locational information (where I am).

Support of Wearable Technology

As long as I am trying to develop my digital banking nirvana, I might as well look a bit further into the future and make sure my mobile banking relationship can be supported by wearable technology. While definitely not for budgeting or more difficult mobile banking transactions, both Google Glass and SmartWatches can potentially be effective for mobile alerts, balances, simple transfers/payments and augmented reality ATM/Branch finding capabilities.

Two banks are setting the pace globally for wearable technology integration. Banco Sabadell has already used an open app development forum to create mobile banking using Google Glass. As covered by The Financial Brand, the first iteration of 'banking by glass' includes balance inquiry, the ability to get alerts and find branches and eventually deposit a check by looking at it.

In addition, Westpac New Zealand has created the first SmartWatch banking app that leverages the bank's Cash Tank application. Initially only providing balances without formal login, the application is expected to also include the ability to get alerts and do transfers in the future.

One Last Word on Mobile Banking Innovation from Australia

It is clear that the development of innovative mobile banking applications is an ongoing process with new applications and capabilities being introduced almost every day. Therefore, it is important for those searching for digital banking nirvana to not only keep up with industry trends globally (much of the innovation is being done in the Asia Pacific region as mentioned in my recent blog post on innovation), but to also partner with those banks that have innovation ingrained in their culture.

I was lucky enough to be surrounded by many banks at Next Bank Sydney that obviously do more than just talk the talk on innovation . . . they walk the walk. It was apparent that each institution put a high premium on future thought and were encouraged to think out of the box and not be afraid to fail. The energy level of people from these banks was high and there was an amazing willingness to share from each other as well as leaders globally.

Beyond Australia, banks like CaixaBank and HanaBank, as well as USAA, Moven and Simple in the U.S. are ones to follow. I also am intrigued by BBVA, where their Innovation Center is both robust and very public. In addition to a public Innovation Center web site, there is also a LinkedIn and SlideShare page, sharing ideas that have been developed and discussing the innovation process at BBVA.

It is clear that my digital banking nirvana will be a moving aspirational target. But, if I was to combine what is available globally today into a single mobile banking app, I would have a killer mobile banking relationship with my bank.

Additional Resources

My Digital Banking Nirvana - Jim Marous on SlideShare (Nov. 2013)

Mobile Banking 2013: Are You Following or Leading - Mapa Research (June 2013)

Banks Accelerate Mobile Banking Innovation - Bank Marketing Strategy (June 2013)


  1. Nicely done Jim. Since most FIs in the USA blindly adopt the mobile banking platform if their core banking provider, Internet Banking provider or mobile banking provider it's not surprising the USA is way behind the rest of the world in mobile banking features and benefits. If the companies buying the solutions don't demand more, they don't get more. Now all these companies are trying to catch up. Hopefully they will read this presentation for inspiration.


    1. Very good write up!

      @david - Core banking providers for smaller institutions like Credit Unions and community banks are so far behind everyone else in the US, let alone the rest of the world. Simple is making a great effort, although they aren't a bank technically. Without tight integration with an open API and core, these institutions won't be able to catch up. Many of us are even using screen scraping technology to deploy mobile apps! (I'm shaking my head right now in shame.)

      Taking banking to this new level of mobile simplicity should also be teaching us about the desktop platform. It needs to be much simpler, and completely overhauled at the same time. Attempting to move the desktop experience to the mobile one helps us see what we need to improve on the desktop.

  2. Thanks for both of your comments. Yes, it is tough to see innovation being done by non-traditional financial institutions and by banks overseas and not as much by U.S. Banks. Instead of playing catch up, it is time to jump to the forefront in simplifying mobile apps as opposed to continually adding new functionality. As I mentioned in the post, Customer 3.0 is wanting ways to make their lives easier. Even in a mobile vendor partnership scenario, taking steps out of processes and/or making apps easier is not impossible.

    Just look to U.S. Bank and their partnership with Mitek as an example

  3. Hi Jim, thank you for this great post.
    The photo account opening seems to be a great improvement to overcome the huge formal process it usually takes to open an bank account. But the possibility to offer this kind of authentication strongly depend on the legal regulations of each banks country.
    When reading about the GoBank swipe to see your balance feature and looking at the picture and also watching the "Balance Shake" video I was wondering about privacy here: Can anyone who has access to my phone see my account balance without providing a GoBank account number and password? Even so my phone is password protected for accessing private financial data I prefer another hurdle before my account balance is revealed.

    1. Glad you liked the article. I intend to update my 'nirvana' over time as new innovations are introduced worldwide.

      You are correct about the need to adhere to regulations of each locale. With regard to the instant access to balances, each example I have seen requires the customer to authorize this capability. What is interesting is that, while we associate the seeing of a balance with a security breach usually, the balance is nothing more than that . . . a balance. In other words, whether I have $30 or $30,000 in my account, the fact that someone may be able to see this gives them nothing more than a number. For me, the convenience of having my balance accessible without a series of authentication steps is much more valuable than the 'risk' of someone seeing my balance.