January 03, 2014

When mobile banking apps were first launched shortly after the iPhone became available, who could have imagined the rate of change and the scope of innovation that would result?

Within the next 12 to 18 months, mobile banking will pass a historic milestone and overtake Internet banking in terms of overall usage. Innovation is now being focused on mobile first, with Internet banking being the laggard. In 2014, the next important change in mobile apps will be addressed by both community and money-center banks; How to extend capabilities to businesses and employees. Businesses are clamoring to use mobile and are tired of being stuck on a retail mobile banking platform not built for their needs. It is time for these profitable customers to have their own app. And as retail and commercial customers use mobile more and more, employees will also be unchained from their desktops as mobile apps allow them to perform tasks using tablet computers inside and outside of the branch.

[For More of Our Mobile Coverage, See: Mobile RDC for Commercial Clients on the Horizon ]

With a continuing focus on user experience, bankers will begin seeking a single platform to solve these multi-pronged mobile challenges instead of implementing a separate solution for each group. Creating a single infrastructure for all of these constituencies is easier than you may think. Features like mobile check capture, which has already been perfected for consumers, can be easily re-purposed for businesses and employees to use. In fact, the functionality is almost identical for each user.

Capabilities will differ, but it is one app solving a challenge for different end-users. Each user-group can be "entitled" to use a different set of features. The bank benefits from fielding a single app instead of having three apps to support. This approach can be made a reality by the bank utilizing a single mobile platform; let’s call it a Mobile Application Platform or MAP.

Mobilizing Bank Staff

MAPs will begin to proliferate during 2014 as banks start to solve the mobile challenge for businesses and employees. Employee-facing apps will afford the greatest potential for innovation as desktop access to core banking systems gets surpassed by accessing this information from a tablet computer. Banks are going to focus on delivering a great experience to their employees, just like they have focused on delivering a great experience to consumers who utilize mobile banking. This is a long way from the "green-screens" of the past. Imagine how powerful it can be to have a workforce enabled with mobile tablets that are easy to leverage in key tasks such as on-boarding new customers, and performing customer transactions remotely at the place of business of a consumer or commercial customer.

Employee mobile apps will focus on three primary sets of features as they storm in to the market in 2014. First will be an employee portal or landing page - the place an employee lands once they log in to the mobilized core system. It will look more like a Facebook page than a traditional core solution accessed via a desktop computer. It will be filled with visual queue's to help that employee manage their day, such as sales targets and other important tasks. It will be the place the employee calls home in this new world of tablet-mobilized core system access.

Next, employees will be able to rapidly on-board new customers, turning a traditionally painful and lengthy process into one that is easier for both the employee and customer. This new process will take fifteen minutes compared to the 45 minutes it tends to take today when processed through a desktop. It will be highly interactive, allowing the employee to collaborate with the new customer in ways that were only dreamed of in the past. The move to assisted self-service will leave an indelible impression on this new customer, who will think of their new financial institution as customer focused and friendly. Then there is the cool factor: allowing the employee to take pictures of documents such as the drivers license to do away with data entry, and a check to start the new account funding process. Most importantly, it enables banks to perform tasks in an industry-compliant way with a fraction of the effort associated with on-boarding today.

Lastly, employees will be able to perform cashless transactions anywhere in the branch, or in remote locations, enabling the employee to go out in the field to service consumers and businesses. The employees will be unchained from their desks and their desktops and will be able to dramatically extend the service experience. Using advanced features such as employee-facing mobile check capture, banks will realize vast savings and higher levels of risk management by capturing checks in a compliant fashion at the direct point of service. Branches will not go away, but rather, they will be extended to the field.

The future of mobile is here and everyone wins in a world where service and technology meet to create cool mobile apps for users, from consumers to employees.

Robb Gaynor is the chief product officer at Austin, Texas-based Malauzai Software.