Q&A: Citi Mobile Banking Exec Weber on Future of iPad App

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Tablets have developed a reputation as a venue for games, reading and pursuits that require more time. But for Citigroup, that's fine. The more immersive consumer use of tablets is informing a content strategy that's helped the bank's iPad app enjoy quick success.

Citi's native tablet app was developed mostly in-house by a cross functional team, which chose to start from scratch rather than adapt the bank's website or mobile app for tablet use. The app includes video tutorials, visual plots of past and pending transactions, and personal financial management tools. Most recently, the bank added customizable charts and graphs to help users track card spending.

The result is an app that's been growing in both use and function over the past several months. The bank found that iPad adoption was greater than iPhone adoption by double or more for each of the six weeks that followed the initial iPad launch in mid-2011. And, in an important finding on immersion that's helping the bank develop function for the tablet, the institution's discovered that during 77 percent of tablet banking sessions, users spent time on three or more separate screens on the app, and the average across all sessions is 4.44 screens.

The bank hopes to keep the tablet app momentum going, particularly among younger consumers.

Tracey Weber, Citi's head of internet and mobile banking for North America consumer banking, recently did an interview with BTN in which she discussed how the tablet lends itself to financial education and personal financial management.

BTN: Citi has focused heavily on the iPad. Are other tablets in your plans?
Weber: Absolutely, we're looking at other devices right now. We started with the iPad because it's the tablet for which there is the greatest market share. As new devices become more popular, it will be important to have capabilities for customers wherever they are and for whatever they are using.

How will tablets change the way consumers use payment cards?
The card data that you look at on the tablet is the same as in other venues, like mobile or the website. But on a tablet it's displayed in a way that's visually rich and makes you see the story inherent in the data. So instead of a ledger with a list of transactions, you see interactive charts and graphs that let you see how cash inflows and outflows are going. So there's a huge opportunity for people to engage in information on their spending and financial health.

What have you found to be the difference between tablets and the website in terms of how they're being used, and how you respond with your content strategy?
When people come onto the website, they are looking to pay bills and other chores, and often, when they are on the website, they don't have time to engage on broader content or read an article about finance. When people are using the tablet app, they may do a payment or two, but the content on the tablet is more educational and more appropriate to how the device is being used as an interactive information tool. So it's not as if this [information and interactive education] isn't available on the website, it's just not as prominent as it is on the tablet.

How important is social media in the tablet?
Social media is big in all of our channels. But we find that because of the way that tablets are being used, people are positioned well in tablets to interact with other customers and customer service directly though the app.

What excites you personally about tablets?
I get excited about a couple of things. The sharing aspect that tablets provide is big. You can see that in the games. My daughter and I play Scrabble on tablets all the time. There's an interesting opportunity in this for financial services to leverage that ability of the tablet to easily connect you with someone else for a variety of financial purposes. Also, there are a lot of capabilities of the tablet that aren't being fully leveraged. There's the visual richness of the interface and the use of broader navigation gestures. The mobile applications only allow a couple of gestures, touch and swipe. But the tablet offers much more. There are broader gestures that can make financial services on the tablet even more interactive in the future.

Citi has placed personal financial management tools on its tablet that it's not including on its website, such as deeper customization and views into how peers spend money. Is it this advanced user interface of the tablet that really makes PFM pop in that venue?

The immersive aspect of the tablet is a big deal. The fact the people use it when they have more time lends itself well to personal financial management, as opposed to the Internet, which is more traditional. The time that you are thinking about your spending and planning, those are the times when you are likely to spend on a tablet. You can use the web for that kind of immersion, but the content is not quite as rich.

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