Mobile banking now … and later

Let’s start a credit union industry conversation about mobile banking. An honest appraisal of where we are versus where we need to be.

In the nine years since Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citibank and other big banks launched mobile banking, the industry has learned a great deal about what 21st Century consumers want – and expect – from their banking apps. For example, we know they desire a consistent customer experience in every channel they use. They want to move seamlessly from one channel to another. And they don’t want to be bogged down with functions they don’t need.

Where we are now

Today’s cookie cutter approach to mobile banking doesn’t fit these consumer wishes. When mobile banking started, conventional wisdom said just convert online to mobile. Thus, what passes as a mobile banking app in some shops is really just the online banking site on a smaller screen: cluttered, awkward and hard to read.

I compare it with the “Winchester House”: stairways leading nowhere, miles of twisting halls, a sprawling maze that is neither functional nor easy to navigate. Tour guides warn visitors that straying from the group could cause one to be lost for hours!

Maybe mobile banking isn’t that bad, but is it truly user friendly? More to the point, do our current systems provide a satisfying member experience equal to other channels? For most, probably not.

Perhaps the industry didn’t reckon that many of the other coming mobile apps would be simple to drive, even fun and eye-catching. From getting the news to getting a job, from obtaining health records to catalog ordering, and from reading a book to taking a class, today’s smartphone users do virtually everything from their apps to make life easier. Banking is supposed to be one of those.

Where we need to be

What would we do differently if we could start over? Design it from the member’s perspective.

John Rossman, former Director of Merchant Integration at Amazon, says the Company’s success is largely due to designing capabilities from the user backwards. CU Today recently excerpted Rossman’s book, “The Amazon Way: 14 Leadership Principles Behind the World’s Most Disruptive Company,” (“Lessons In Disruption From,” Nov. 12, 2015):

“When we were building the third-party selling business at, creating a great experience for the seller was our goal.” Further, he says, it meant a “Willingness to rethink policies, rules, and other assumptions that are widely accepted in the business world is critical. So is asking and answering the question, ‘If I had to completely automate the process and eliminate all manual steps how would I design it?’”

Rossman admits such a move takes executive management guts because it’s often met with all kinds of resistance. “It takes vision, creativity, desire, and courage to carry out the invent-and-simplify process.”

The question to start our industry discussion is how do we create mobile processes that ensure member satisfaction?

What’s at stake

Today, 67% of American adults own smartphones, with more than half using banking apps. An IDC Always Connected Report says 73% of adults go online via smartphone at least daily, with 79% keeping their phones with them for all but two hours of their waking day. And 60 percent of consumers’ online time is spent on mobile phones or tablets; many of which allow them to choose the functions they want.

Mobile usage is only going to grow bigger – and not just among Millennials. We need to secure a prominent place for credit unions by creating a mobile platform that not only has a simple user interface, but also lets each member choose his/her own experience. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, with users having to navigate through screen after screen to make a deposit, take out a loan, or learn about home ownership, why not let them customize which functions they use and bypass the others? Face it, if you’re buying a tent on Amazon, you don’t have to go through the camp stove “aisle” to get there!

Just this month, Sergio Chalbaud, CEO and Founder at Fintonic, wrote on The Financial Brand that mobile banking sites should match the branch experience because customer satisfaction is high. People receive friendly greetings, problem-solving is usually easy and the trip in and out is efficient.

What we can do now

In addition to starting a discussion on the future of credit union mobile banking, here are a few ideas to get started in the here and now:

  • Make it familiar. People like their branches because they know their way around, so ensure your mobile app is easy to navigate, too. Whether it’s learning about home ownership, signing up for an IRA or buying a new car, pretend you’re visiting your bank via mobile for the first time. Think about the functions you use most often and simplify access with a one-click process.
  • Replicate the “Hi, Bob” experience. Credit unions are known for personalizing members’ in-branch experience, calling them by name and often knowing the names of their children – even pets! You already have your member’s data in your system, so make online forms a snap using an auto-complete function to enter his name, address, account number and other relevant information. Also, let members connect with a live person from his mobile app by prominently placing a “Help Desk” link on each screen. And, where possible, enable him to speak to the same rep each time when he needs a problem resolution.
  • Personalize member messages. When your member is in the branch, his account rep can quickly see his banking activities – when and why he’s borrowed, spending patterns, product usage. Employees can make recommendations that fit members’ needs, so why not do the same via your mobile app? Use your core and CRM data to point dynamic, one-to-one content to each member, customized to his/her individual credit union behaviors. With digital tools, like DigitalMailer’s adEngine, you can use data-mining to deliver relevant, useful messages. You also can track and follow up on suggestions, personalizing the member’s experience.

As credit unions, we have a strong tradition of collaboration. I’m calling on the industry to put our heads together and think about bringing mobile banking up to par with consumers’ other daily apps. Working as a group, credit unions of all sizes could afford to offer a richer, member-centric mobile experience. Let’s start talking!

Ron Daly

Ron Daly

Ron Daly is the president and CEO of Virtual StrongBox, a secure, end-to-end member engagement platform that can be integrated into various workflow processes to provide high-risk Enterprise IT firms ... Web: Details