JPMorgan Chase & Co. digital chief Gavin Michael, who joined the firm a year ago, has a certain disdain for some competitors' staid mobile-banking apps.

While functional, the apps aren't intuitive or personalized enough. So when it came time for the New York-based company to update its app, with a new iPhone version available today, Michael, 49, said he studied software produced by technology startups.

"How do I make this simple, human, cohesive? How do we change the principles we're chasing?" he said in an April 15 interview. "We looked at what a lot of the startups are doing, whether it's Seamless and the way I order takeout food, or Uber and the way I catch a cab, or OpenTable and the way I book restaurant reservations, or the way Apple iOS is shaped."

Lenders including JPMorgan, the biggest U.S. bank by assets, are leaning on mobile and online offerings to win loyalty while lowering the cost of retail services. The firm's mobile users rose 24 percent from a year ago to 16.4 million. Bank of America Corp., the No. 2 U.S. lender, said mobile customers increased 19 percent to 15 million.

Michael, who reports to consumer-banking chief Gordon Smith, joined JPMorgan from consulting firm Accenture, where he was head of technology innovation. He has since hired executives from outside finance, including Tim Parsey, a former senior vice president of design at Yahoo! Inc. and Josh Klenert, a former designer for the Huffington Post. Both are based in San Francisco.

Prior versions of the bank's mobile app for the iPhone drew 3 1/2 out of five stars on Apple Inc.'s App Store as of late yesterday. Bank of America's had a similar rating. Apps from San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co. and New York-based Citigroup Inc. both had three stars.

JPMorgan's redesigned app for the iPhone has a simpler login and location-based greetings to give users a more personalized experience, Michael said. The background photo shown to a customer in New York may feature the Brooklyn Bridge, for example, while a client in San Francisco sees streetcars.

"People work on an emotional level before they go to the rational level," Michael said. "What we're trying to do with banking is create that emotional experience inside the way which images are used, the way we greet and the way we understand how customers bank with us."

Future versions will probably detect users' location to tailor their experience and ease transactions including in-store purchases and pulling cash from automated teller machines, he said.

"When I'm near an ATM, how do I get the two to work so I can preload transactions?" Michael said. "We want a cohesive experience across our digital and live interactions. So things should work together and feel like they belong together."

Mobile technology has helped firms including Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America reduce bank branches. Customers "effectively carry a branch in their pocket," Chief Executive Officer Brian T. Moynihan, 54, said yesterday on a conference call.

Still, branches will remain a key fixture for lenders, Michael said. They are evolving into places where customers seek financial advice, while performing routine activities like depositing checks with mobile phones or ATMs.

"It changes the relationship you have with the branch, as opposed to replacing it," Michael said.