Researchers are discovering that users have pre-existing relationships with tablets that are much less formal than smartphones and PCs, yet involve use of tablet apps that are rich in information and context. For banks, that requires tablet banking design that's more animated, includes more data and research, and touts a user experience that's more visually enjoyable than other channels.

"The tablet app solves [basic] banking tasks, but does so in a different way," says Deepti Sahi, senior product manager at Intuit. "With the larger screen size, more animation, and more gestures, we're able to leverage much more content with the iPad than the iPhone and other mobile devices."

Intuit recently launched a new tablet banking app, giving banks and credit unions an added third party option for tablet banking.

A number of larger banks, such as Citigroup and BNY Mellon, have developed their own tablet apps. Intuit, whose early tablet app functions are rudimentary financial tasks such as viewing transactions, paying bills and locating ATMs and branches, has been studying usage patterns in preparation for adding more merchant rewards and personal financial management tools to the app over the next few months.

In what should be good news for banks interested in tablets, Intuit has found that people use tablets frequently enough to boost overall monthly engagement. "Customers that use online banking and add mobile and tablet banking are three times more engaged than those who just use online banking," says Sahi. Where online-only users interact with the bank 11 times per month, online/mobile/tablet users make 35 monthly contacts. "There's a much deeper share of the relationship," she says.

In an earlier interview, Tracey Weber, Citigroup's head of consumer mobile and internet banking for North America, told Bank Technology News that the wide use of tablets for games — particularly games involving more than one person using different tablets — provides an opportunity for banks to create tablet banking apps that use sharing and social networking to connect with a group of consumers on a more personalized and visual level than other channels. The banking apps at both Citi and Intuit are designed with a more informal user experience in mind.

"PCs are still very key-heavy, while tablets allow for direct engagement with the screen," Sahi says.

At Intuit, the internally designed tablet app includes detailed visuals, such as seeing money move from one account to another on the screen in an animated manner. And as the firm integrates the tablet app with FinanceWorks (Intuit's online financial management product) and adds links to personal financial management tools and merchant rewards, Intuit will add functions to allow feedback on the user experience, and the ability for the users to visually see how much money they are saving or spending while they are paying bills on the tablet. "We really have a brand new channel that takes up end users' time during the day," says Sahi.