Payments are on the move

Mobile has become a hot topic for banks in recent weeks (months, years) and so I’ve been fielding a lot of questions about how best a bank can ‘capture the mobile channel’. And yet there are two, perhaps more, fundamental issues with this question. The first is to do with the channel itself. When banks first moved into the ‘e’ channel, it was in a very measured way – at the time most home users ran Windows and the overwhelming majority did their surfing with Microsoft Internet Explorer. This created a very stable and predictable environment where banks could deploy security solutions into a known space and benefit from a considerable ‘one size fits all ‘ approach. The same is certainly not true in the mobile channel where the bulk of the market is represented by at least 6 or 7 operating systems on various platforms with a considerable variety in available complementary technology. There is a variety of handset ownership models, a considerable variety in handset sophistication and also very divided opinion amongst consumers over whether mobile banking and payments are wanted or necessary. This brings the first question – where does a bank start?

The second question is less obvious but fundamentally more important – how does a bank avoid creating yet another silo in which the mobile channel and mobile operations are separated from the e-channel, branch banking, ATM and telephone channels? Consumers today want their bank to take a single approach towards them – the same high level of service regardless of how they interact with their bank. Typically a consumer will have a preferred channel, but they also want to be able to use all other channels easily – whichever is most convenient at the time they want to interact – and do so without unnecessary steps, validation, software downloads or authentication. This One Bank interface is the key challenge for banks in the coming years – not only supplying the right solutions to their customers, but also ensuring that the infrastructure behind it all is geared towards simplicity, efficiency and ensuring a coherent customer experience.

What does this mean in reality? It means that remote authentication, regardless of device (mobile, tablet, PC, phone, ATM) should be done in the same way. It means that balances should be manageable in every channel and that payments should be initialised from anywhere in the same way. It means that a visit to the branch has the same level of humanity as the new ATM interface. Banks need to re-evaluate their security to make it convenient and coherent, not just secure. Take the ATM for example, which is essentially a multi-user PC, why not use e-banking credentials to ‘log-on’ to a bank-owned ATM? It would mean that I really could go out on a Friday night with just my mobile – pay with the mobile where possible and access cash using my credentials otherwise. Better still, why couldn’t I order the cash I need from my mobile and then enter a specific code to make the ATM spit it out the same as some existing emergency cash solutions – seamless integration of the bank’s interfaces.

So the questions open up challenges for banks. Mobile is not just a new channel, but an opportunity to make the entire bank offer more customer-centric. Customers only see one bank brand, they don’t see channels.

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