Bank of the West aimed to improve ease of use in its latest mobile banking apps, says Mathieu Krogstad, head of mobile.
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User Experience Top Priority, Says Bank of the West's Krogstad

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Simplifying mobile banking is top of mind for Bank of the West's head of mobile, Mathieu Krogstad.

"To focus on experience and design…is absolutely key," Krogstad says.

The San Francisco bank revealed some ways it aims to improve ease of use with its newly updated apps. "It's our first big release since the relaunch," says Krogstad. Bank of the West reintroduced its mobile tech — powered by Fiserv — earlier this year. "One of the key focuses was an overhaul of the user experience. To us, the user experience is really critical."

Take Quick Balance, for example, a feature that lets an opted-in customer view an account balance with a single gesture. In the latest mobile app update, Bank of the West made the feature more prominent at the login screen and grew out the number of accounts it displays to customers. Now Quick Balance works with five accounts, as opposed to two. The expansion should appeal to small business and high-net worth customers, says Krogstad.

Quick Balance is meant to better serve the content mobile banking customers covet the most: their account balances. It's critical for the bank to provide customers with the fastest way to get this information. "The biggest challenge for Quick Balance is the speed at which information is returned to the device. That's the key to success," he says. "If they're waiting five or six seconds, it's not really quick."

Currently, Bank of the West can serve the information within about three seconds of someone initiating the feature, Krogstad says.

The bank's iPad app, meanwhile, has been updated to show users a view of pending payments and bill presentment for the next 30 days when they swipe for Quick Balances.

The updates come from customer feedback. "The branches and call centers provide us with tremendous feedback about what people want," he says.

Beyond the enhanced account inquiry tool pre-login, Bank of the West also built more tailored marketing into the channel. The bank now includes so-called dynamic customer messaging that lets it serve targeted content above the fold to users, such as a mortgage offer. The bank's marketing team handles the messaging through a mobile dashboard.

The pre-login app screen, meanwhile, also now includes general messaging content, like a link to a digital fraud awareness video by the bank on YouTube to foster better engagement. "The tool is powerful in introducing new things to customers," says Krogstad.

After viewing the video, a customer will be redirected to wherever he left off within the app.

All told, Bank of the West counts 40% of its active online banking customers as mobile customers, too. The bank defines active as someone who performs a transaction within 90 days.

"There's a lot of opportunity for the non-online banking segment," says Krogstad. Some customers, who have yet to enroll in online banking, may wish to become mobile-only customers.

Industry research suggests that younger consumers expect to be mobile-first customers.

Even so, when Bank of the West lets customers become mobile-only, Krogstad says it's important those individuals will be also able to sign into online banking with those same credentials, should they find themselves on a PC.

Looking into 2014, he says the bank will continue to progress — and expand — Quick Balance and improve the ways in which people can move money wherever and however they want. Customer experience will continue to be top of mind. He predicts the industry will slow its arms race for offering new features and better refine the design they deliver digitally.

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