First Look: Chase App Adds Features to 'Humanize' Mobile Banking

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JPMorgan Chase is serious about making mobile banking more enjoyable.

The largest U.S. bank's newly redesigned mobile app, revealed at a recent press junket in Manhattan, weaves in local imagery from the location at which a consumer signs in. A New Yorker might see the Brooklyn Bridge with the Manhattan skyline, while a Los Angeles resident could view the Santa Monica pier. At launch, there were 18 images available for the mobile app's background. The bank plans to add more.

The images, of course, require consumers to share their location with the bank and are meant to improve the look of the app and offer a visual cue that the bank knows its customers.

The bank "wanted to create an experience that starts [with] emotion," said Gavin Michael, Chase's digital chief who came from Accenture about a year ago. "We're humanizing the user experience."

Chase's digital team includes recent hire and former Yahoo! design exec Tim Parsey. Yahoo! has won accolades for its weather app, which pulls in imagery from the photo-sharing site Flickr to show users what the outdoors actually looks like.

The update underscores how outside companies are influencing design trends in banking.

Some bankers have said they want to emulate this design element. Some smaller banks such as Frost Bank in Texas and Salem Five in Massachusetts already include local imagery within their online banking websites to better connect with their audiences.

Chase is the first large bank to do this on its mobile app.

The New York bank has also recently updated its ATM and online banking software to wish customers a happy birthday. Wells Fargo's ATMs also recognize customers on their birthday.

Other Chase app updates include welcoming messages when consumers log in and a simpler navigation. Customers can now log out of the app from whatever page they are on, for example. Customers can also choose to interact with the app in Spanish.

Chase has already won repeated accolades for its mobile apps. Keynote and Forrester for example, have crowned Chase's app the best several times, citing its ease of use as one reason why it stands out from other banking apps.

Chase plans to have its next mobile app release in June, and generally, to keep up with the kind of faster development cycle that app-enthusiastic customers have come to expect. Currently, the bank is working on overhauling its tablet app. Gavin also hinted that a "quick balance" feature — one that lets people swipe without a password to access their account balances — will be added to the app by yearend. Citi recently introduced that feature, and Bank of the West was one of the first banks to have it.

Michael also mentioned that Chase is working on connecting its ATMs and mobile apps. Other banks, like Wintrust Financial, have already begun piloting the ability to let customers pre-stage an ATM withdrawal with a click of a button within a mobile app.

"We are at day one," said Michael of the design efforts across digital channels.

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