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Too Many Banks Still Treat Mobile Banking as an Afterthought

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I have spent a fair amount of the past three years or so researching, writing about, consulting and presenting on mobile banking. I think about the channel a lot and instinctively look out for new developments in the space on news sites or when I attend conferences.  As an advocate of mobile banking, I feel that I should be entirely sold on making it my channel of choice with my bank. But I'm not.  At least, not yet. 

Don't get me wrong.  Mobile banking is great if I am sitting at an airport and feel the urge to make a payment or check up on something.  It has been equally terrific when I have needed to get to my bank accounts and do not have access to my computer to do an online banking session.  But mobile banking, at least with my primary bank, has proven itself unreliable, and too limited on too many occasions that my first preference for now remains online banking. 

Despite the fact that I bank primarily with a large bank, the mobile banking services I have access to considerably lag behind those of online banking. If I go to look at my credit card account with my bank using my phone, for instance, I cannot see any transaction information since my last statement.  Nor can I see how much credit is available or get an accurate, up-to-date balance on the account. 

I have contacted the bank about all this and the answer I get is "you're not the only one with that experience", with no explanation, no apology and no commitment to fix the problem.  Basically, the only thing I can do with my credit card through mobile banking is make a payment to the account. 

Likewise, my bank's mobile channel does not let me view any information on many other accounts I have, such as my mortgage or line of credit.  They show up on the list of accounts, but, unlike online, they cannot be accessed, even to check balances.  Their purpose in being visible via mobile appears to be to allow me to make a payment to them, nothing more. 

Transferring funds to someone outside the bank is also a challenge.  There are more limitations as to who I can send money to and the amounts I can send than with online banking.  And there is no getting around these limitations by starting the process online: anyone I set up via computer as a payee is not available to me via my phone at a later time. 

I wish that I could say that my experience with the mobile channel is unique, but the customer experience studies I have been involved with suggest otherwise.  New features and functionalities are being rolled out across the industry, but error rates on cutting-edge capabilities, in particular, can be high, as teething problems are being resolved. 

In the most recent mobile banking study at ath Power, 43% of small business customers experienced some technical problem(s) within the past year with their bank's mobile channel.  It is one thing for the bank's marketing department to put out promotional materials on the bank's "latest-and-greatest" addition to the mobile channel, but quite another for the IT department to deliver.

A possible reason for at least some of these issues is that relevant systems are not talking to each other.  The situation is exacerbated by all the industry consolidation that has taken place.  Legacy systems at various acquired banks do not necessarily communicate well with other systems within the bank holding company.  In addition, banks have typically deployed mobile banking as an addendum to online banking, from both a technology and staffing perspective, with consequences to the customer experience. 

To an average customer, however, this is all academic.  Customer experience suffers, and, in this case, mobile banking usage is discouraged, in favor of the more robust online offering.  These matters will, no doubt, be resolved over time and I continue to be optimistic about where the mobile journey will take us, even with my current bank.  Meanwhile, however, I think I'll stick with online banking for anything serious and drop in on mobile on an as-needed basis.

Michael J. McEvoy is managing director at ath Power Consulting. He can be reached on LinkedIn  or by email at mmcevoy@athpower.com.

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Comments (5)
When it comes to financial services, consumers want convenience. Mobile can deliver a strong value proposition here so it is inevitable that mobile is having a major impact. Mobile is clearly at the centre of a revolution that is happening. Recent reports from Gartner highlight how the line between computers and mobile devices in banking is blurring, and indeed suggest 'the traditional view of online banking is obsolete, and presents serious risk for banks and bank's CIOs.' (Online Banking as a Discrete Channel Is Obsolete, Stessa B Cohen, May 2013).

It is logical that if we have an intelligent sophisticated device that is with us 24x7, be it a smartphone or tablet that consumer should expect to be able to control their lives through this one device, for communication, work, shopping, watching films, playing games and listening to music. Their attitude to payments is no different, and why should it be? The mobile device is set to become the dominant device to enable a paradigm shift in traditional business models, and the device to enable new business models and experiences. If banks' attitudes continue to segregate online and mobile as digital channels then they run a real risk of new entrants taking market share.
While the limited and frustrating experience of using mobile banking is not uncommon, part of this lies in the reluctance of banks and consumers to use a channel that up until now has been largely unsecure. However, the technology now exists to remove the need for password, provide a low-friction customer experience while offering multi-layered, multi-factor security, all largely invisible to the user. Utilising such solutions will then enable greater consumer confidence and allow banks to open up mobile as a flexible and user friendly channel.
Posted by Ed Maine, ValidSoft | Tuesday, August 06 2013 at 11:21AM ET
Many bankers either see mobile as a required additional channel or a threat to branches. Sadly, many banks are stunningly behind the curve. While at a mobile banking show I met a banker who confessed that her bank was just starting to evaluate mobile solutions - That was only last June!

Consumers expect a seamless experience among all channels. They also expect their bank to have the tech skills needed to show all of their accounts in one interface. Many Millennials would gladly do all banking on their mobile if they could. The reality is that bank competitors who focus on a great customer experience and lack the legacy systems that slow down many banks will offer increasingly appealing alternatives. Moven has already shown what is possible. Banks will either recognize the future or become part of history.
Posted by Eric Lindeen | Friday, August 16 2013 at 1:25PM ET
As a mobile software rep, I agree with these comments. Many banking back end systems are complicated. We do provide connectors technology to get data out of any back end system-Web Services, Database Connectors, Proprietary ERP systems and our platform is able to generate truly native output across every device and OS in market. Our technology provides a seamless experience across all devices/all OS's a user might access in any given day. A multi-channel platform approach is a great way to answer the pace of BYOD, mutli-channel demands. [See Kony's review here under the Gartner Magic Quadrant report where Kony was named a leader in the space in August, 2013]. Our technology avoids exactly the kind of experience Ed describes above. Unfortunately, banks invest little in mobile technology often times doing so poor a job at assessing new technologies that they jump at their core providers' free mobile apps. These apps have poor UI/UX across devices, have limited function and features, are rarely available across anything but iPhone and Android, but nevertheless are contracted for years at a time on the retail side. The change requests for upgrading features are very slow and frustrates forward thinking bankers and end users. The development approach to mobility in these large banks is extremely siloed but our technology breaks those silos down so that it's not necessary to have a separate development team for desktop vs. tablet vs smartphone which ultimately results in a disparate experience across devices. Forward thinking CIOs have found value in a platform approach to mobility. Kony offers the only platform where developers can render truly native outputs across all 7 OS's, or mobile web outputs, HTML 5, 4, SPA etc, or mixed mode where developers can choose form by form how to render an output-from a single application definition. We're also introducing a new product to market, the Kony Visualizer that will dramatically increase time to market by combining the steps of the UI and UX. Retail banking customers do not have to suffer these disparate experiences across devices and OS's. Banking executives merely need to complete the hard work of truly assessing their options when it comes to mobility. I can be reached at lori.robertson@kony.com.
Posted by LoriR | Saturday, August 17 2013 at 5:57PM ET
There is little question that the 20 somethings will not use brick-and-mortar like their grandparents did. Once our current senior citizens pass, traffic at traditional branches will fall off.

Its not 'mobile' that is changing banking. Its convenience. And its changing all of retailing. And our 'devices' will get much, much smarter in the next ten years, and tell us what we want to know, when we need or want to know it, without us asking it to.
Posted by Charles Smith | Saturday, August 24 2013 at 8:02AM ET
Mobile Banking does not have everything you would like it to have because most Financial Institutions realize that it is still not secure.
If a user must enter all the required Login credentials to access an online account, then only Single-Factor Authentication is protecting that account and therefore it is wide open for today's Trojan exploits to easily gain access. I suggest that you do not use Mobile Banking for any transactions.
Posted by mangelinovich | Thursday, October 03 2013 at 8:23AM ET
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