How will the iPad impact mobile banking?
Recently for Juniper's Mobile Banking report, I conducted a global survey of banks looking at their mobile banking strategies. The aim was simple: to identify first how many banks offer any form of mobile channel access and then to discover the relative popularity of SMS, mobile web and apps as means of providing services. The result was very conclusive. Over 80% of banks currently offer some form of mobile banking. The survey was conducted from the viewpoint of a prospective customer, simply by approaching the bank website and determining if said bank offered mobile, bearing in mind that this could be anything from a simple SMS balance alert right up to a fully fledged web based or smartphone app based transactional service with super features and usability. At the time the work was done, the iPad was just being launched so it was too soon have an "iPad" app box to tick in the analysis. But what I've noticed over the last couple of weeks is that those iPad specific apps are beginning to appear. I've noted for example OCBC Bank in Singapore, ING Direct, Chase...the list is growing. So..what are the prospects? Well, first of all it's worth saying that these apps are appearing very quickly after the iPad launch, no doubt because of similarity with an iPhone and IPod Touch app. But why should a bank spend time and money developing an app for the device? Well my view is that it's no different from mobile banking generally: it's all about providing customers with more choice and flexibility. Let's face it, in simple terms an iPad is somewhere between a laptop and a smartphone in screen size. I think this is the issue. Apps for the iPad will attract users who are maybe not keen on the small screen form factor of the phone, but who maybe do their banking by laptop already and want an alternative in certain circumstances when they are out and about. It could also create an "armchair" banking experience - you're reading your ebook and suddenly remember you need to check your account. So I think there will be instances like this where the iPad fits well into other activities. Banking by iPad is also an activity that is only going to grow of course, so getting an app out there early is a good move for a bank and it puts the bank at the forefront of developments too. So good for PR. I don't however see such an app affecting the widespread take-up of mobile banking globally - because of nothing else than sheer volumes required - you're not going to see billions using mobile banking apps. But it's an important alternative amid the ever growing number of channel choices that banks are offering and has clear attractions based on integrating into lifestyles. We're certainly talking millions of users in time.