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Ally Bank's Mobile Strategy

The direct bank uses the mobile channel as one of the primary ways to maintain its financial relationship with customers.

Direct bank Ally looks at the mobile channel in a bit of a different way than many traditional financial institutions. Without a branch network, Ally relies heavily on mobile -- and digital channels in general -- to interact with its consumers, market products to them and maintain the financial relationship. Bank Systems & Technology asked Carrie Sumlin, Ally Bank Digital Deposits Executive, about how the financial institutions views mobile, and what's in store ahead.

Carrie Sumlin, Ally Bank
Carrie Sumlin, Ally Bank

Bank Systems & Technology: As a direct bank, how does your approach to mobile differ from a "traditional bank?"

Sumlin: Our priority at Ally Bank is to put the customer first and that philosophy guides our strategy for our mobile offerings. Ally Mobile Banking was designed with a single purpose – to provide customers the easiest ways to access and manage their money. While the nuts and bolts of mobile development are similar for all banks, what we believe sets us apart is the depth and frequency of customer feedback we gather, our commitment to addressing that feedback, and our consistency in making sure all of our technology experiences live up to our promise of transparency, simplicity and ease of use. We want our mobile experience to "feel" like an Ally experience.

BS&T: What do Ally's customers expect from a mobile experience? Do they tend to be a mobile-savvy populace?

Sumlin: Convenience is a top priority for Ally Bank customers. They rely on us to anticipate their needs and deliver a simple, intuitive experience. Our Ally mobile banking app has undergone an ongoing evolution since its launch two years ago to keep pace with the rapidly developing mobile environment, with the most recent enhancement being a redesign using the new iOS7 operating system protocols for iPhone platforms. When it was first introduced in April 2012, Ally mobile banking was designed to allow customers quick and easy access to their money and account information away from home. The initial features included the ability to check balances, search transaction history, transfer money between Ally Bank accounts, see current call wait time, and find nearby ATMs and cash-back locations. The second generation of Ally Mobile Banking apps—featuring customers' most-requested capabilities -- including Ally eCheck Deposit, Bill Pay, and fund transfers to and from external banking institutions -- was introduced in November 2012. Customers, in general, are adapting quickly to the mobile environment. We are not focused on providing the greatest number of bells and whistles, but on ensuring we fulfill our promise to deliver products and services that meet the needs of our customers.

BS&T: Do you have (or have plans) for a tablet-specific mobile app, do you differentiate between the user experience on a phone as opposed to tablet?

Sumlin: Tablet apps are definitely part of our plans, and all we can say on that right now is stay tuned. Even with the same functionality between a tablet and mobile app, the tablet provides an opportunity to provide different interactions because of its increased screen space, allowing for an entirely different user experience.

BS&T: Consumers have high expectations due to their everyday experience with innovative companies like Amazon, Apple, Google etc., especially with what they can do on a mobile device. How much of a challenge is it to keep up with these expectations and balance innovation with all the other upkeep of running a financial services company?

[Related Content: Ally Launches Mobile Payments Upgrades]

Sumlin: Certainly we acknowledge the importance of the mobile channel in today’s banking landscape – especially for an online bank – but we have to achieve the right balance between the rapidly evolving mobile environment and what is most beneficial to our customers. We want to deliver technology that provides convenience and functionality while maintaining our customer-centric philosophy to be a straightforward bank with no excessive costs that get passed along to customers. That means not developing technology for technology’s sake, or getting overly fixated on functionality at the sacrifice of all the other benefits Ally Bank offers its customers, like competitive rates, daily compounded interest and live 24/7 customer service, to name a few. One way we determine where that “sweet spot” is with our customer is by leveraging “voice of the customer”. This includes gathering feedback on what is important to them, the frequency and primary purpose for using their mobile devices to access their accounts, and which devices they are currently using or anticipate using in the near future. We have a number of ways to gather this information, including through social media, and consumer surveys via our web and call center channels.

[How is mobile transforming banks' omnichannel strategies? Find out from mobile banking leaders at BS&T's Mobile Disruption Forum, Weds., May 14, The Westin New York at Times Square, NYC.]

Bryan Yurcan is associate editor for Bank Systems and Technology. He has worked in various editorial capacities for newspapers and magazines for the past 8 years. After beginning his career as a municipal and courts reporter for daily newspapers in upstate New York, Bryan has ... View Full Bio

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Becca L
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Becca L,
User Rank: Author
4/27/2014 | 9:11:29 PM
re: Ally Bank's Mobile Strategy
I'm also surprised, especially given mobile is a priority for Ally. Of course, this speaks to the complexities of putting out a functional tablet app in a regulated industry.
Nathan Golia
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Nathan Golia,
User Rank: Author
4/27/2014 | 11:53:50 AM
re: Ally Bank's Mobile Strategy
I'm sort of surprised they don't already have a tablet application as a direct bank. You'd think customers in that market would overindex toward using tablets.
Jonathan_Camhi
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Jonathan_Camhi,
User Rank: Author
4/23/2014 | 9:02:43 PM
re: Ally Bank's Mobile Strategy
And I would expect more new players like Moven and Simple will also be emerging over the next few years, and probably competing with those direct banks for the same tech-driven customers.
EricP980
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EricP980,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/23/2014 | 7:58:23 PM
re: Ally Bank's Mobile Strategy
Agree, very similar to USAA and their focus on delivering a 'one company experience' via their digital channels. Although being overly fixated on bells and whistles and chasing shiny objects is not the best strategy, direct banks do have the early mover advantage over traditional banks given size, scale, risk profile, etc. to try and even pilot/bring to market newer, more innovative capabilities especially if it provides acquisition opportunity...extending on just pure self-service.
Byurcan
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Byurcan,
User Rank: Author
4/22/2014 | 1:10:22 PM
re: Ally Bank's Mobile Strategy
Yes, with a bank like Ally mobile is much more than just a a nice extra perk to offer customers; it's integral to how they do business. I guess you could classify Moven or Simple as the first mobile-only banks? As mobile devices become even more powerful, I'm sure we will see more services you would normally have to go to a branch for being offered on mobile.
KBurger
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KBurger,
User Rank: Author
4/21/2014 | 5:01:05 PM
re: Ally Bank's Mobile Strategy
At a very high level this reminds me a bit of USAA's approach to mobile -- it is a direct banker with a dispersed customer base; the mobile offerings are intended to accommodate those circumstances. It would be interesting to have some insights into the Ally customer base demographics, as I assume it is less homogenous than USAA's active/retired military customer base.For a direct bank multi-channel doesn't mean the same thing as for a branch-based bank. I wonder when the first mobile-only bank will come along, and who will be behind it?
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