Corporate customers want retail’s bells and whistles, too

Register now

Millions of retail banking customers already use fingerprint and facial recognition logins for their accounts. Corporate banking clients increasingly want the same features in their enterprise tools too.

“Consumerization and the ease of use aspect are becoming priorities for corporate treasury teams as they take on more responsibility and look for more efficient ways of doing business,” said Tom Durkin, head of global digital channels, Global Transaction Services at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “I would expect this macro trend to continue.”

On Monday, Bank of America Merrill Lynch announced several upgrades to its CashPro mobile app for corporate customers. The new features include the addition of fingerprint and facial recognition biometric authentication and an embedded token that allows clients to approve to complete payment approvals within the mobile app. Previously users had to jump between the mobile app and a token app or carry a physical token to complete payment approvals.

The payment feature is one Durkin says will be particularly useful to corporate clients. In general, commercial payments are still largely inefficient, manual paper-based processes.

“We anticipate that the mobile device will evolve from a transactional device to more of a personalized communication device, which in turn will enable us to deliver more specific recommendations to our clients,” Durkin said.

“We know already that our users appreciate the convenience of making payment approvals on their mobile device. So anything we can do to enhance the ease of use — such as adding an embedded digital token — will streamline the experience further for people on the go.”

Improving the area of payments for business customers has been a focus of innovation for banks in recent months. Banks such as KeyCorp, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase have all made investments in in various aspects of commercial payments over the past year.

“Banks have been doing it because they're recognizing that there is a lot of revenue potential on the corporate side of the bank,” said Christine Barry, research director at Aite Group. “The older solutions that they had were clunky and difficult to use. As a result, they were leaving money on the table.”

Banks are especially focusing on mobile solutions for commercial clients, which are increasingly conducting more of their lives — both personal and business — on mobile devices.

Mobile services such as what BofA rolled out this week are “more of a usability enhancement: increasing convenience for customers so they don't have to carry around tokens,” Barry said. “So we're seeing a lot of that type of investment or planned investments as well as just broadening portfolios to go beyond traditional banking capabilities.”

Banks in the past may have been able to offer less robust digital tools to commercial customers, but not now, said Alenka Grealish, a senior analyst with Celent.

“Five years ago it made sense because the consumer experience was a fraction of what it is now,” she said. “But we as consumers now are used to quick, easy, convenient digital interfaces, and consumers are also commercial customers.”

This is especially true as corporate clients do more of their own work outside of the office, Grealish noted. “A lot of times when you’re deep in transit, being able to use a device to keep up with your workflow is welcome,” she said.

Indeed, Bank of America looked for feedback from its clients when developing digital tools for enterprises, Durkin said.

“As far as determining where to invest, we look to our clients to help set the agenda,” he said. “They provide input on a product road map through different avenues, including advisory boards, client experience surveys and direct relationship reviews.”

Even though some of the needs of commercial customers are different, “the basics when it comes to customer experience are the same,” said John Mitchell, CEO of the payments software technology vendor Episode Six.

Much of the way commercial payments are done now “hasn’t really changed a lot,” he said. “Banks should be investing in innovation in this area or risk getting left behind.”

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.