As Apple executives unveiled enhancements to the Apple Watch, the iPhone 6S, the iPad Pro and Apple TV on Wednesday, bank technology executives watched with an eye toward retooling their digital banking offerings to take advantage of new features.
"What we saw from Apple was an evolution of the kind of experiences their technology can provide, and it aligns with Tangerine's philosophy of being able to bank when you want, where you want and with the technology you want to use," said Charaka Kithulegoda, chief information officer at Tangerine Bank in Toronto.
Bankers we spoke to saw the greatest possibilities in making app improvements following updates to the Apple Watch and iPhone.
The 2.0 version of Apple Watch has what are called "complications" — small elements that appear on the watch face and provide instant access to frequently used data. Apple is making these available to developers, so they can create features visible to users as they lift their wrist.
"They're the digital equivalent of very expensive watches where you can have moon phases and other esoteric calculations," said Andres Wolberg-Stok, global head of emerging platforms and services at Citigroup. "In the digital application of that, an app developer can push real-time information, not just to a glance on the Apple Watch or an app on the watch, but to the actual watch face. So any bank that's capable of providing account information on the watch without a password or PIN, as we've done since March, can now show users their checking account balance on their watch face."
Customers could also opt to see their latest credit card transactions on the watch face.
"It depends on what it is that makes you tick as a client, what type of being-in-control and having the latest information you find useful," he said. "If the thought of having account information on your watch is the ultimate in immediacy and intimacy, being able to put it in the complications is one step further. It removes one layer of friction."
One might wonder how many customers want to be able to constantly view their account data, 24/7, alongside the time.
Wolberg-Stok notes that in the past, bankers have often questioned how much people really want to do on a computer or a device.
"Every time, we prove our doubts wrong," he said. "Every time, we realize there is an appetite for more."
Kithulegoda also expects developers at the $38 billion-asset Tangerine to create new interactions on the Apple Watch using complications. In addition to giving clients the ability to quickly check their account balances and recent transactions on the face of the watch, complications also open up possibilities for personal financial management tools on the watch, he said.
For instance, they could be used to let people check the progress of their financial goals at a glance. They might also be used to let clients look through past transactions.
The iPad Pro
Apple also announced the iPad Pro, a supersized tablet with a 12.9-inch screen this week. Critics scoffed that the device is too similar to Microsoft Surface, but Citi is considering the use of the iPad Pro among employees. For instance, the ability to split screens could be useful in face-to-face commercial interactions.
"Why not have half a screen facing the client and half the screen facing the banker," Wolberg-Stok said. "It's the first screen where two people can be looking at something and one of them is not looking at it upside down. Both can interact independently with the screen."
Animated Photos and 3D Touch
Wolberg-Stok also sees possibilities for banking in the iPhone 6S's ability to animate photos — if the user touches and holds down on a picture, they see a short, gif-like video.
"That's going to enable new, intuitive behaviors on the part of clients," he said. The bank could let customers press down on a transaction and see it animate with more details about the location, the time, and maybe a tagged photo, without requiring the customer to navigate.
Similarly, the 3D Touch feature of the latest Apple smartphones lets the user apply pressure and access more information within any app. In some cases, this acts like a drop-down menu offering several navigational choices. In others, users will be able to toggle to another app and be able to return to the bank's app without losing their place.
"The introduction of 3D Touch gives users a new way to interact with their device, and we see it as a way to make the banking experience faster and more efficient," Kithulegoda said. "Using this technology, we can give our clients quick access to the banking functionality they use most often, such as bill payments, email money transfers and check deposits."
As such navigation devices become popular, banks will have to build them into their apps.
"When users start expecting [such features] as standard behavior, if you don't have them in your app, your app feels dated," Wolberg-Stok said.
The TV is a little more out there, from a banking point of view. Over the years, banks have experimented with TV apps, but the consensus has often been that people do not want to bank on a large screen that can be seen by many people.
Kithulegoda sees the TV as a possible channel for signing up new customers.
"Our vision is that one day this will be available for clients via their mobile devices so they can easily sign up from the comfort of their own home," he said. "Today's announcement about the new Apple TV and the evolution of apps for that platform gives us another channel to bring this vision to life."
Wolberg-Stok sees the TV as a vehicle more for e-commerce than for banking per se.
"I want to think more deeply about the difference between an e-commerce app, where you can shop as a family, and a banking app, which tends to be much more personal and private," he said. "You can imagine shopping as a family around a big screen, but not necessarily banking. The connection is, how do we as banks make it easy for our clients to leverage their relationships with us while they're shopping? How do we turn mobile wallets into TV wallets?"
Apple this week also brought back the stylus, renamed the Pencil. Here again, Citi designers see potential.
"The user-experience people in the room with us yesterday [watching the live-stream of Apple's announcement] were incredibly excited about it," Wolberg-Stok said. "It brings together the power of iOS with powerful design tools so it's incredibly attractive for professional or enterprise apps. It offers a degree of fine-grained control that's been missing until now with touch screens.