Future Of Mobile Banking 2012

Published at OnIslam.net.

Organised by Marketforce and the Institute of Economic Affairs, the second annual conference addressing the future of mobile banking took place on the 29th of May in London.

Opening the first session was Aman Narain (global head of internet and mobile banking, Standard Charted) who shared that they first began by establishing ‘war rooms’ with a sign reading ‘World’s best internet bank.’ Understanding the ease with which one can copy, their focus has been on creating the next best experience – opposed to catching up, and by his own confession they have had numerous failed efforts along with their successes. Key message, partner with niche firms who tend to be more innovative, having a passion for breakthrough technology.

James Richards (director of mobile, Intelligent Environments) took us through the evolution of mobile banking to-date and where we are heading, including mobile payments. James stressed the importance of combining security with a good User Interface and he cited the example of the Starbucks app which allows you to order your coffee without standing in-line with a fully integrated payment service, QuickPay.

The next session hosted by Pat Carroll (CEO, Validsoft) and Thomas Kragh  (associate director of digital channels, Nykredit), polled the audience using mobile technology. A series of questions were asked on the evolving role of mobile, and in my own case, my replies were via Twitter. Perhaps most telling was the question, Do new entrants have an advantage over traditional banks in mobile banking? To which 56% of the audience said Yes. This is unsurprising given that years after Eric Schmidt of Google spoke of ‘Mobile first,’ when this was raised by the one of the speakers later in the afternoon, there was still curiosity from the audience. Banks given their size, the need for security and even regulation, have in the past adopted more conservative approaches to innovation. In doing so, particularly in the context of mobile payments, some have become complacent creating opportunities for new entrants.

Indeed this was the subject raised by Andres Fontao (executive mobile banking consultant, Clairmail) who spoke on why banks are in the ideal position to own the m-commerce channel.  And as Anita Hockin, head of mobile at Lloyds Banking Group spoke – fairly eloquently I might add, understanding product design is fundamental to delivering a good User Experience. Moreover, her stress on the need for continuous innovation was a refreshing call, ‘What you’re looking at today will not be there in six months, it will evolve, so take a step back, re-evaluate, redesign.’

Perhaps Thomas Gregory (head of digital payments at Barclaycard), delivered the leading success story of the day. Thomas spoke about breaking the chicken and egg cycle i.e. whether to focus on the merchant or the consumer. The success of their contactless technologies for payment, while only saving 2-3 seconds, still offered an exciting option to the consumer. Moreover their constant innovation means that revelers attending the upcoming wireless (music) festival will have wristbands that will enable them to buy food and drink,  which even double up as their tickets.

Adam Kennedy (product director, Vocalink) spoke of  customer needs in the context of mobile payments. ‘Next day doesn’t cut it’ he says, with the need to combine convenience, ease, simplicity and safety with speed. Adam continued stating that the consumer’s attitude has changed to ‘The faster I get the money, the better’ all-the-while the consumer remains oblivious to security concerns surrounding the payment services.

Pol Navarro (head of direct channels and innovation, Banco Sabadell) began with the example of Google, how, they have very little advertising but many still use their services. Similarly, WhatsApp have carved a niche delivering traditional premium operator services for free. Pol’s message? When a service delivers a meaningful experience, the community of users drive it’s growth.

Thomas Kragh (associate director digital channels, Nykredit) built-on this showing that their strategy includes shifting the ownership of data back to customers: let customers see what they are doing and thus help them better manage their finances. Bill Brown (worldwide product marketing director, Adeptra), went further identifying the need for creating libraries of data allowing the customer to add to their existing and future apps. Between the two there is a refreshing insight for data to be used less by a provider and more by the user themselves.

Ruaoridh Roberts (industry manager finance, Google) shared that 28% of people respond to mobile adverts. His message included the need to accommodate the changing way consumers use different screens, showing that even today, 78% of on-line advertisers do not have a site optimised for mobile.

But beyond mobile sits a humble truth as mentioned by John Lunn, EMEA director of innovation for PayPal, that the banks are 14 years too late playing catch-up. In his own capacity John encouraged new technologies that allow any smartphone to take credit cards turning the everyday Joe, into a merchant. More interestingly for me however was his move away from the notion of mobile first, to, as was implied, Cloud first.

Adding my own commentary, with the growth of machine to machine interaction, along with general person to machine interaction, while a mobile phone is the tool of choice for people, ensuring that information can be accessed across multiple devices in real-time – whether by people or machines – getting this balance right, along with the tools to manage the information, will be the next big thing.

In closing there was no greater advice to the banks than that of Sean Gilchrist (managing director of digital banking, Barclays Bank), who said, ‘To avoid becoming a utility, you have to adopt mobile payments…Focus on the journey, make it simple, easy.’

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