It is safe to say the days when the banking industry could sit back and admire mobile innovation by the likes of Apple and Google are well and truly over.
The extent to which Australians are now living their lives digitally mean they are no longer giving us technology concessions just because we are a bank. We need to be right up at the front of the digital innovation space, leading the way – our customers expect it.
Forty seven per cent of all digital customer interactions at ING Direct are now via mobile – an increase of 51 per cent on the previous year and growing rapidly. Yet for most people, their mobile device is far more than just a practical tool; it serves an emotional purpose too.
For Australians in particular, having access to our mobile devices makes us feel part of the wider community – safe, connected and in control. In fact, I recently heard that 90 per cent of people have their phone within arm’s length 24/7 – I am one of them!
What is interesting is that when banks started to investigate the mobile space a few years ago, this emotional relationship customers have with their mobile phones was largely overlooked. Rather, it was a rational decision to go down the mobile route – introducing a low cost, easy to use service channel, which was little more initially than a website replicated on a mobile phone.
But customer behaviour is evolving, expectations are growing and the traditional role of the bank in consumers’ lives is changing. New ways of managing money are appearing and with this comes a set of new challenges for the banking industry, manufacturers and distributors alike. What we are seeing is the balance of power shifting completely to the customer.
A few years ago, the first port of call for people seeking information and advice around personal finances was usually their bank. Now they are using comparison sites; they are doing their own research; and they are asking peers for their recommendations and personal experiences. And digital is turbo charging the rate and amplification of these interactions. People are becoming more empowered; they want to take control of their finances and the onus is on banks to help them do so.
Customer needs are now met through a proliferation of channels, creating complexity to support as well as an opportunity to differentiate. We are seeing a trend for multi-device usage simultaneously, with 90 per cent of customers saying they use multiple screens sequentially to accomplish a task. They expect what they have on desktop to also be available on mobile. In fact, they have higher expectations for mobile.
Social businesses are also changing the way we bank. You may have heard of Kickstarter, the crowd funding platform which launched recently in Australia and is built on the concept of peer-to-peer lending. People no longer have to approach a bank for a loan; instead they can raise funds via social media. Disintermediation is squeezing the middleman – consumers can be both the lender and the borrower.
In which case, where does that leave the retail banking industry?
I still see huge potential in the technology space for banks to leverage data intelligently and respectfully in order to offer customers tailored choices and really add some value. Rather than taking a one-size fits all approach, customers want us to get to know them so banks and their distribution arms can better serve them. A recent study found that 64 per cent of people expect their bank to contact them if their everyday account balance is running low, for example.
There is no doubt that in this dynamic world of technology, benchmarks are being set, milestones passed and capabilities introduced on a continual basis. But ultimately we have to think about doing what is right for the customer. Making it easier for people to manage their money and make sustainable financial decisions is where I think the real opportunity lies.