Cellphones 'should be at core of bank strategy'

Banks need to reframe their business models and place the mobile phone at the core of their business strategies amid the rapid evolution of digital financial services, said banking experts.

At the Next Bank Asia conference on the future of banking yesterday, they pointed out that banks in general are still predominantly clinging on to traditional banking platforms and have neither invested enough or taken the initiative to drive innovation in virtual systems to serve the mobile-savvy customers of today.

They called for top management of banks across the world to overhaul and re-design legacy banking platforms, particularly those which hamper innovation.

Said Mr Scott Bales, the chief mobile officer of Movenbank: "Money has evolved from cash to digital and more and more people expect seamless, better-quality mobile services.

"Banks have to connect the dots and see the patterns of opportunity...that people are always banking but never at a bank, and to thus design a bank with the mobile phone at the centre, so customers can do their banking anywhere."

Mr Matt Dooley, the founder of Connected Thinking, said the challenge for banks is to sell these customers a desirable user experience and not push products to them.

He said that banks need to capitalise on the large amount of data they already have on their customers and to provide them with the right information at the right time to make a desirable impact.

This would require the banks to integrate with ecosystem partners, such as mobile-money facilitators like PayPal and M-pesa, he added.

Mr Bales pointed out that banks could look more deeply into individual customers' user journeys to help the latter find out more about their financial personalities.

"Banks could ask their customers a series of questions about what they believe their spending tendencies to be or what their budgeting goals are and, whenever they make a purchase, show them via mobile how it compares," he said.

"They could also give their customers a sneak peek into their financial statements before the end of the month."

Mr Oliver Weidlich, a consultant at Mobile UX, noted that mobile payments have started but consumers in general are disconnected from financial information.

"Behavioural economics shows that the further away we get from spending money that's actual money, the more likely we are to spend more," he said.

"If banks can close the feedback loop and integrate mobile- banking platforms with payment and personal financial management, they would certain be able to attract and retain the new breed of customers in today's digital age."


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