It had to happen, and apparently it has: In the year just passed, according to the new report “2015 Mobile Banking, Smartphone, and Tablet Forecast” from Javelin Strategy & Research, 30% of customers used mobile banking on a weekly basis. That’s officially higher than the 24% who stop by the local branch on a weekly basis, a significant milestone. For those wondering, that represents 25 million new mobile bankers in 2015 alone.
There was a time when a statistic like this would have aroused tremendous interest throughout the industry. Today, it barely qualifies as a milestone. That may be a good thing—we understand that each successive technology trend will uproot traditional practices, forcing us to go with the flow. Acceptance is surely a wiser response than consternation.
Still, being blasé is not a great idea either. Many industry institutions and professionals alike were stunned by the speed with which mobile capabilities were adopted, the hunger among (some) customers for more mobile apps, and the ferocity between competitors to get new products out there. There was, and in many quarters continues to be, surprise at the ongoing popularity of offerings from non-banking vendors, specifically technology companies.
That’s why, even before the pending onslaught of multiplying endpoints from advances such as the Internet of Things, it’s worth taking a closer look at just how well the financial services industry is keeping up with the innovations driven by mobile banking. Yes, there’s a lot more mobile-savvy customers out there, and they’re going to the branches a lot less as a result. But what exactly are they doing with those mobile apps? What more could they—and should they—be doing?
First, let’s acknowledge that most financial services institutions, including relatively small credit unions, have developed and launched branded and customizable banking apps. New research indicates that the number of financial institutions with their own apps jumped by 25% in just the past two years, and 70% of financial institutions with less than $10 to $15 billion in assets already have these tools in their arsenal. In other words, basic mobile banking functionality is essentially commoditized. It’s not a differentiator, and it’s not a particularly powerful draw. Customers aren’t thrilled by it as much as they expect it.
A potentially scarier stat is that 15% of apps changed hands last year from one vendor to another. This is a fickle market—after decades of brand building, we find that loyalty lasts only until the next big thing comes along.
So what is the next big thing? Here’s one possibility: Rather than extending the convenience of routine banking functions to devices that are always at hand, mobile platforms essentially replace all existing practices to become the only channel of transaction and communication. That might span the full spectrum from opening new accounts and managing credit card settings to accessing funds from sources far outside the traditional banking network.
In fact, while so much attention is devoted to consumer habits—which is understandable, given that mobile devices are inherently personal devices dedicated to personal tasks and preferences—the most important innovations of the future might come from the business side.
As collaboration technologies enable more enterprises to benefit from a dispersed workforce, it’s entirely plausible that mobile platforms will drive all business. This means that the office as know it will be fundamentally transformed—more colleagues will be working from across town, or the suburbs, or another city, or even another country.
This evolving dynamic will need to be fueled by an entirely different breed of banking practices, and mobile capabilities will surely be at the core of that transformation. So as much as mobile banking has already changed so much—as evidenced by the rising number of consumers who engage in mobile banking—could be it that there are far greater changes to come?
Here’s a thought: Since we’ve just learned that weekly mobile banking customers outnumber those who go to the branch—and not been particularly surprised by that—what statistic might we see this time next year that really will surprise us?