Time to take off the cheerleader outfit because the reality is that, in lots of ways, mobile banking continues to disappoint many credit unions and members.
The bright potential to truly revolutionize how and where we consume financial services is there, but there also are many bits of gloomy news that suggest new, better ways of deploying mobile banking need to be found.
First a bit of good news, from Michael Poulos, CEO of Michigan First, a $681 million credit union in the Detroit suburb of Lathrup Village, Mich. “Technology is a great equalizer. We can compete with Chase because we can provide the same technology. We don’t have to have 300 branches. The cellphone is moving into our sweet spot.”
“Mobile provides convenience. We believe it will be very good for member retention,” said Ken Senus, senior vice president of IT at $1.3 billion Navigant Credit Union in Smithfield, R.I. Navigant, Senus related, introduced its mobile apps a couple months ago and with minimal promotion already 3,500 members have downloaded them.
Senus’ goal: To get every current online banking member also enrolled in mobile. He did not set a timeline for that goal but, he elaborated, Navigant is seeking to build a mobile banking app that mirrors the institution’s online banking experience.
That is the dream: when the smartphone becomes a branch in every pocket, suddenly the small institutions can go toe to toe with the mega banks.
But to get there, hurdles will have to be jumped.
Case in point: buried in a new study from Javelin Research is a startling data point - banking consumers who reported troubles accessing mobile banking “tripled since 2009 from 4% to over 14% in 2012.” More than one in seven of us are saying they are interested in using mobile banking but they cannot access.
In an interview, Javelin’s Mary Monahan said that Javelin had not probed into the why of the access difficulties. It could be the financial institution does not support this consumer’s phone, for instance. It could be that the consumer is in an area with anemic cellular data services. It could also be that the consumer simply finds his/her institution’s banking app to be puzzling.
None of those possibilities is particularly compelling but the plain reality is that a sizable consumer cohort appears to feel abandoned by a mobile banking they want to embrace.
Another troubling fact: adoption of mobile banking by credit union members continues to lag. Many institutions still can claim only single digit usage by members - and that is at a time when the race into mobile is transforming just about every other sector of the economy.
A reason for this, said Robb Gaynor, a co-founder of Austin, Texas, apps developer Malauzai, is that many institutions claim to offer mobile banking but what they offer is a mobile “optimized” version of their online banking portal and “the experience is terrible,” said Gaynor. “Browser based mobile banking is ruining this. It’s a disappointing experience.”
Gaynor’s fear is that a member who tries browser-based mobile banking and who swears to never go there again may be tough to persuade to give the slicker, apps-based mobile banking experience a try.
If they do, believes Gaynor, they will become converts to a better way to bank. By Gaynor’s math, a typical credit union that launches a mobile app will have around 10% of its members active in the channel 90 days after launch.
Withing a year, said Gaynor, 15% to 20% of members will be active mobile banking customers.
He added, optimistically, “We expect mobile banking to take off in half the time it took online banking to.”
To Gaynor, a key to sustaining mobile banking adoption is to keep enriching the app – the better it gets, with more features, the more members will find a reason to go mobile.
Fiserv’s Steve Shaw has a similarly optimistic outlook on the future of mobile banking. His view is that “we are on the cusp of substantial consumer adoption. It will come in 12 to 18 months.”
His perspective is that the market is coming to maturity, as more consumers have smartphones and they know about apps and, importantly, they also begin to use phones as financial tools, buying coffee at Starbucks or lumber with PayPal at Home Depot.
Put the ingredients together and, said Shaw, it’s an incendiary mix that will deliver explosive growth in mobile banking, at least at the institutions that have invested in upgrading their tools.
“Financial institutions need to keep investing in mobile, or they will lose consumers,” said Shaw. “This is a unique opportunity.”