Where is mobile banking taking us?

Image: 401 (K) 2013

Image: 401 (K) 2013

One survey says that ‘by 2017, an estimated one billion people will use mobile banking, and it has already become a way of life for many of us‘.

A driving question for banks and application developers is ‘where can we take mobile banking’ but a more significant question for mobile users is ‘where can mobile banking take us’?

Web 2.0 guru, Tim O’Reilly,  proposed back in 2005 that successful Web 2.0 applications needed to be ‘above the level of a single device‘ and be device independent. The device independence of many applications is now an accepted part of everyday life.

But O’Reilly went further in 2012 to suggest that really successful Web 2.0 applications of the future needed to be seamless or ubiquitous and be virtually transparent in their ability to satisfy the users needs.

The idea of ubiquitous software still needs more work but advances are being made to develop softare which can be applied seamlessly across multiple devices.

Banks are well aware of the need to satisfy the users needs as studies in the UK and USA prove the strong demand from bank users, especially the young mobile users who ‘hate their bank but love their phone‘.

“banks needed to make the banking experience seamless for customers”

The benefits for the banks if they can go above the level of a single device is the ability to offer their customers access to applications everywhere, but also to capture information that is location or context aware and give the mobile banking user an experience they can’t live without.


The major Australian banks have gone mobile with a passion but with varying degrees of success in the eyes of their customers. To help understand the O’Reilly pattern, I will look inside the banking suite for any signs of the O’Reilly ‘best practices’.

Current banking features

Transactions processed:

  1. Enable data location independence and seamlessly synchronise data across devices – banking systems have long had this covered with branch, phone, internet, mobile, ATM and transaction processing, but a quick look at some bank websites shows they still see these as discrete bank functions rather than a seamless ‘money management’ experience.  An example would be to start a loan application online and then complete in a branch . Something similar is currently possible with online Australian passport applications.
  2. Design from the start to share data across devices, servers & networks – banking systems have evolved into multiple interfaces for transactions, payments and viewing customers’ accounts, but again these are not sharing data in a seamless manner.  There may be infrastructure or technology issues, but at least some banks are exploring innovative solutions.
  3. Extend web 2.0 to devices – banks moved from plastic cards to magnetic stripe to new chip technology which now allows chip-enabled cards to function seamlessly such as the “tap-and-go” payment options. Unfortunately, their level of sophistication is still rather raw since the customer can’t control who has access to this information – it is an all-or-nothing approach. This also requires devices in retail premises but customers are also wanting the ability to transfer funds between individuals by mobile phones.
  4. Leverage devices as data and rich media sources – banks have a wealth of information that could be used to improve the customer experience.  Some small steps have been made such as the NAB Money Tracker and St George Money Meter , but there are many more opportunities that utilise the data of previous transactions and can tell you that your water bill is up, electricity bill is down and you had twice as many coffee shop visits last month!
  5. Use power of network to take load off device – the mobile banking applications seem to have addressed this successfully, but the field is wide open for other devices to be used as well.
  6. Make one-click peer production a priority – banks are obviously aware of the ‘need for speed’ and offer quick logons to mobile banking applications such as the NAB who has replaced the userid  and password with a single mobile passcode.

Transactions pending:

  1. Think location aware – one best practice that hasn’t made a strong appearance is more location aware banking applications. One example: if they know you always buy pet food and you are there now, why not send you a text suggestion?

Future issues and opportunities

When you consider Banking and Web 2.0 the question remains: ‘where can mobile banking take us?’. The answer is anywhere and we’ll get there quicker if we stopped talking about ‘banking’ and started talking about ‘seamless asset administration’.

Who said we can’t keep our home asset register, repair log, photo memories and warranty records closely related to our savings and spending? Who said banking is a reactive activity without any reminders or prompts from the bank? Who said only banks should handle our money?

Traditionally the banks have told us what is possible – but the tables are now turned in the customers favour and new customer experiences are possible.

For a high-energy view of the ‘brave new world’ start the YouTube video at 6:00 and enjoy!

And another take on the possible future of banking and retail.


Further Reading:

Barkhuus, L., & Polichar, V. E. (2011). Empowerment through seamfulness: Smart phones in everyday life. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, 15(6), 629-639. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00779-010-0342-4

Singh, S., Puradkar, S., & Lee, Y. (2006). Ubiquitous computing: Connecting pervasive computing through semantic web. Information Systems and eBusiness Management, 4(4), 421-439. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10257-005-0003-8

Warren, P. W. (2004). From ubiquitous computing to ubiquitous intelligence. BT Technology Journal, 22(2), 28-38. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/215203661?accountid=13380


14 thoughts on “Where is mobile banking taking us?

  1. Hey there,
    It’s reeeeeeeeeally a great post here you posted!
    Surely,mobile banking is a big deal nowadays. People just carry around their mobile devices everyday and access the Internet with it every second. Sure thing is, we cannot leave mobile devices, and we also cannot leave banking, of course. O’Reilly’s pattern above a single device is making such a big difference around the entire Internet.
    Of course there will be some problems with the whole Internet’s growth and the amount of people using Internet’s growth. For one aspect, security is a great problem that everyone cannot falsely deny. The problem of this pattern is becoming so obvious since we can see so many security incidents that happened these year on mobile devices, especially android devices. It’s a dangerous world out there and we must make our mind alarmed, so that as we enjoy the Internet and mobile devices, we can also be alerted that there are dangers out there some where.

    • Thanks, Albus, I’m pleased you liked this post. I agree that security on mobile devices is a big issue. People want convenience on their mobile device and seem happy to overlook security. All the security we learnt for our PC’s seems to have disappeared when the Portable Computer became so small it fitted in our phone! I think this will become very topical as you say.

  2. Nice example for the mobile pattern Bronwyn!

    I think mobile banking is a very convenient feature to have on a smart phone. Too often I’ve forgotten how much I have in the available funds so I like being able to check how much I can spend. I’ve used it frequently when I get an “Insufficient funds” message and through a simple process, transfer money and pay not a minute later. With regards to “NFC” technology, how do you think banking apps will respond in Australia?

    • Yes, Rhys, mobile banking has got a lot of us out of a tight financial transaction! I think the near field comms (NFC) technology will change the face of banking. Some talk about the difference between ‘mobile wallet’ and ‘digital wallet’ where the latter is not locked to any device. It will make banking very seamless and since everyone needs money – a lot of opportunities in an open and competitive environment.

  3. Hi Bronwyn
    Great post!
    While I agree mobile banking could offer customer’s more through such innovative technology, I wonder if their attempts at capitalise on cost reduction opportunities in the mobile market will leave some of their most loyal and trusting customers behind?

    I found this article about banking and customer behaviour interesting.

    Given our economic climate and the effect of the credit crisis on the banking industry there has been a dramatic fall
 in the amount of trust it enjoys among its customers. Do you think mobile banking with software over a single level device will fix this? Especially since trusting and imparting information online is still an issue for most?

    • Thanks for the great link, Janine. It was interesting how they highlighted Trust, Loyalty, Movement and Satisfaction. I think ‘mobile banking’ is addressing some of the Movement and Satisfaction issues but the banks still need to hold (or lift!) the customers level of Trust. I actually think Loyalty will be a hard thing to hold in the future.

      I agree that cost cutting makes it more difficult to deliver innovative and customer-focused solutions – but this is occurring in all business’. Maybe banks need to think outside the square and start ‘harnessing some collective intelligence’?

  4. Hi Bronwyn,
    Excellent post as always.
    A couple of people before me have mentioned the CBA mobile banking app and it’s sister app Kaching which are both awesome utilities. But check out this article – http://blogs.forrester.com/benjamin_ensor/12-02-29-learning_from_digital_innovation_at_commonwealth_bank_of_australia . It really praises the CBA as a pioneer in the digital space, and your points as well as the ones in the videos above really do resonate with their developments over the past few years.

    • Thanks so much for your comments about CBA and the link. It shows CBA is trying to stay in front of the game and making the mobile their payment device. There are still opportunities to stop calling this ‘banking’ and make it a more integrated social activity. Interesting to see who leads in this arena.

  5. Great post Bronwyn
    Nice topic with a lot of interesting information. Seems that we are going to do everything from our smart phones!!
    I always use Commonwealth Bank app on my phone and I never cared about the security! Because I’m totally sure that the competition between all Banks makes each bank look for the best in offering the services for their customers.
    Do you agree with me?

  6. Hey Bronwyn,
    Very nice post, detaling wide ranges of information.I thought your opinion on banking was very interesting. Whats your opinion on banking in the future, if they improve banking just to make banking better for people who use the banks. Or if banking improvement shifts towards improving/rethinking about policies,operational side for better economical and financial sectors?

    • Thnaks, Jason. Interesting question about whether banks will improve or banking will shift away from banks. I think it will be a bit of both. I think others will enter the banking space with more-intuitive apps and more integrated offerings; AND I think banks will respond with improved offerings. I think banks could get ahead if they joined were a bit agressive (eg buy some emerging apps to add to their suite). But I think the banks reputation is built on being conservative so I don’t think that is likely. Overall, I think banks will lose some market to the then new entrants – but customers will get better products and better prices from a more competitive open market.

  7. Great post Bronwyn!
    Do you think a bank’s mobile offerings influences people’s decision on which bank they’d go with? Such as how CBA has “Kaching,” which offers features other banks do not.

    I also find it interesting how we tend to comprise security a lot more these days in exchange for convenience. While NAB’s passcode may not be more “secure,” it is definitely more convenient. (Also, as an interesting point, I use NAB and my mobile passcode NEVER works, which means that I now have one “extra” click to login. I find it frustrating knowing that I could only be typing in 4 digits, but instead have to use my whole login.)

    • Thanks, Monique. And, yest, I think what the bank has to offer will definitely attract customers. If you are only looking for banking and convenience, then there are plenty of banks to choose from.

      I am also fascinated that people would consider security on their PC but hardly at all on their phone – and yet they do plenty of ‘at risk’ activities on their phone like banking. Interesting mindset based on sheer convenience I think.

      Sorry to hear about your passcode. I opted to stay with the userid and password – a consistent user interface for me!.

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