RETAIL BANKING | Contributed Content, Singapore
David Cavell

Are mobiles in retail banking chaos or best practice?


The markets of the Asia Pacific region have been amongst the leaders in the adoption of the mobile phone. Andpropelled by the advent of the smartphone and ‘app’, the mobile handset has assumed a major role in the lifestyle of all segments of society.

Across the global market, the GSMA projects that the number of unique mobile phone subscribers on the planet will grow to 3.9 billion (or 53% of the population) by 2017. As a result, the provision of a mobile banking service has become a strategic imperative for the World’s retail bankers.

However, it is arguable that whilst significant early progress has been made by innovative, committed, and well resourced institutions, the overall development of mobile banking across the World to date has been chaotic. Many players have often followed their market intuition rather than a structured and researched approach.

While at the opposite end of the scale, many others havebeen constrained by a lack of resources or management commitment.

Developments to date have placed great emphasis on the provision of a broad range of increasingly sophisticated payment features, and experience suggests that this has benefited both customers and the respective banks. Beyond this, leading players like OCBC have also provided high quality personal financial management tools and CRM links that drive one-to-one marketing,adding value for the customer and promoting the development of relationships.

In New Zealand, ASB has created a ‘branch’ within Facebook emulating both the ability to chat to bank staff and the opening hours normally associated with bricks-and-mortar! However, the propositions of many other banks have yet to provide features that support relationship development, offer added-value lifestyle services, or link with social media.

So are there some basic groundrules that offer a more orderly approach to the development of mobile banking services? At the outset, planned features must strike a balance between meeting the expectations of the target customer segments, and providing benefits for the bank, including the development of functionality that offers proven and quantifiable operational advantages.

The overall specification of the proposition must be competitive. And functionality should be considered that positively differentiates the bank’s service, including brand support and added value features eg: the increasingly popular shopper service.

Imagery, corporate messages, and navigation aids at the user interface must be coordinated across all forms of customer activated e-channels, from mobiles to ATMs. It is also necessary to ensure that the level of resources dedicated to the mobile programme is reasonable when compared with the total investment available for the bank’s entire channel strategy.

These few items are basic but necessary professional disciplines!

Much has been achieved and solutions seem to carry a degree of operational robustness that will sustain customer confidence and commitment. Moreover, the industry has built a considerable pool of experience which, when tempered with a professional assessment of market needs and other business issues, provides valuable guidance to new and developing players.

The introduction of 4G by the telecommunications sector, otherwise known as Long Term Evolution (LTE), will offer a further quantum increase in data handling capacity. Such are the limitless possibilities now unfolding for the role of the mobile phone in retail financial services that any failure to apply strong professional disciplineswill inevitably lead tomisplaced investment and sub-optimal returns from the bank’s development effort.

Best practice must triumph over chaos!

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Asian Banking & Finance. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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David Cavell

David Cavell

David Cavell is a delivery channel consultant and author of the Retail Banking Research Ltd report “Self ServiceBanking: Best Practice and Case Studies”, published in August 2011. He is one of the speakers at the ATMIA 2011 event last 22-23rd Nov 2011.

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