Tim Dimond-Brown, GMC Software: a mobile app is no longer a "nice to have"

Tim Dimond-Brown, GMC Software: a mobile app is no longer a “nice to have”

Recent research from British Bankers’ Association (BBA) and EY showed that in 2015 UK consumers moved more than £2.9 billion every week using banking apps; a rise of almost 50% from the £2 billion per week in 2014.

This isn’t the only thought provoking figure from the BBA: the use of internet banking on a computer has also fallen for the first time, as users switch to mobile apps. In total, customers used such apps four billion times in 2015.

An app is no longer a “nice to have”. As consumers expect businesses to engage with them at the right time, in the right manner, and over the right channel, a bank’s mobile app will be a crucial first point of contact for many customers.

A poor experience here could lose a bank a customer for life. A completely responsive, interactive and regulatory compliant app is a necessity to survive in an increasingly competitive market; especially as challenger banks such as Fidor Bank and Mondo, whose entire business operates on a digital model, become more prominent.

It’s important to remember, however, that an app by itself is not some wonder-cure that will instantly give a financial organisation perfectly satisfied customers. Instead it is only a component, albeit an important one, of how a bank gives its customers interactive, relevant and individualised communications.

The unstoppable march to digital

According to industry analyst Gartner, a third of CEOs expect to invest more than half of their organisation’s earnings in digitalisation over the next five years; testament to the sheer importance of a digital approach in 21st century industries. However, while the potential is great, if digital transformation is approached in the wrong way the cracks will soon begin to appear.

For example, a banking app that is introduced as part of a poorly-planned digital transformation will be completely disjointed from the rest of the business; in turn, hurting the customer experiences and ultimately making the difference between keeping or losing customers. As David Ebstein, head of digital for financial services at EY Financial Services, recently claimed: “Banks that don’t engage properly with mobile channels risk losing relevance in customer’s lives.”

So how do financial institutions ensure that their approach to mobile apps will give customers the engagement they demand, without breaking the bank?

Remember your legacy

The biggest worry for any bank when examining a digital transformation is its legacy infrastructure. It’s not just the cost of replacing legacy systems; these systems will contain applications and data that are essential to the organisation’s operation and compliance. Ensuring any transformation leaves these areas untouched can quickly add cost and complexity until the whole process is near-impossible. Instead, a mobile app should be able to co-exist with legacy infrastructure; operating alongside rather than replacing it or existing entirely separately.

Breaking down barriers

The ability to operate alongside legacy systems is critical. These systems will contain data that is essential to providing a satisfactory mobile experience. Yet too often, this critical data only exists in silos; available only to one specific business function or service. As a result, the customer experience is disjointed across all channels, from in-branch to mobile; each channel has to either duplicate data that already exists elsewhere, or resign itself to offering an incomplete experience. Ultimately, the choice is between extra complexity for the bank and frustration for customers. To be successful, the bank must break down these siloes and let data move freely across different departments and services. If an app can access and share data between siloes, it will be part of a single, unified experience instead of a completely separate world.

Content is king

Breaking down silos in this way should also include content. 70 percent of the workload in developing an app is creating and adapting content; the more content from across the business can be re-used and adapted for an app, the more of this workload is eliminated. At the same time, the bank can be confident that the app’s content follows existing engagement and compliance best practice. Not only will this provide a seamless mobile experience, consistent with the rest of the business; but will mean that development is a much simpler, more cost-effective process.

Ultimately, whether an organisation is an app trailblazer or a traditionalist, making sure that its app can integrate with legacy infrastructure, data and content is the best way to smooth the experience. By taking the time to design an app which works in tandem with, instead of on top of, legacy systems, retail banks can cater to consumer trends and remain competitive in what is becoming a digital industry.

By Tim Dimond-Brown, head of EMEA North, GMC Software