It's fitting that Bank Systems & Technology closed the April 2012 digital issue covering the evolution of mobile technology in the banking industry the same week that Apple introduced the "new iPad." The updated version of the tablet (which is not being called the iPad 3 even though it is the third edition of the device) includes an improved screen and enhanced cellular networking capabilities, as well as a faster processor. Perhaps more noteworthy than these upgrades, though, was CEO Tim Cook's announcement that Apple sold 15.5 million iPads in the past year — more than the number of PCs sold by any of Apple's competitors.
As evidenced by our report on what goes into an effective banking app for tablets in general and for the iPad in particular, tablets are hot, and bankers are very much engaged in trying to figure out where the devices fit into the ever-expanding spectrum of banking channels. Tablets carry with them significant, game-changing implications for banks in terms of market share, fee-generation and revenue growth, customer experience-related investments, and the still-elusive goal of cross-selling. According to Fiserv's most recent Consumer Trends Survey, one in four online households said they used a mobile banking service in the past month, and 19 percent of online households currently own a tablet. Another 20 percent of online households surveyed said they plan to purchase a tablet, "which means almost 40 percent of online households could own a tablet by mid 2012," Fiserv reports.
Adding to the allure for banks is the fact that 37 percent of the households that already own a tablet reported to Fiserv that they plan to buy another one. And nearly half (45 percent) of the respondents, whether current or future tablet owners, said they'd like to use these devices for banking.
Statistics like these explain why there's been very little "wait and see" in financial services regarding tablets -- rather, many banks have joined the race to be first with tablet apps and platforms. Earlier this month, for example, Citi announced that it had launched what it describes as "the first banking app designed exclusively for the Kindle Fire, … with every component, graphic, touch action, button and slider customized to the tablet's modified operating system, form factor, screen size and resolution."
[See BS&T's related story for more on Citi's Kindle Fire App.]
But this race can't be just about bragging rights. If the tablet becomes an end in itself, developed with little regard to customer needs and habits, then the opportunity will be lost.