A few weeks ago I hosted a banking sector CIO Roundtable on the topic of mobile technologies and their impact, both inside the enterprise and in how banks engage with their customers. Of particular interest was the whole area of mobile payments - not least because there still appears to be so much to play for in this still-developing area. We've seen some fantastic success stories in both developed countries and developing nations, where mobile payments are fast be coming the 'de facto' mechanism for currency transfers (but not necessarily with a bank behind it). In western economies, the opportunity for banks is to provide better services than the competition, increasing customer satisfaction and encouraging upgrades to enhanced facilities.
Mobile banking is not without its challenges, however. It is easy to think that smartphones are where the action is, yet many banking customers still have simpler phones with SMS alone. Equally however, the mobile market is in constant flux and banks need to take into account that many consumers change their phones every 18 months. As such, banks are being forced to think architecturally - delivering core banking services across a broad set of platforms and devices, which can then be adapted as technology and user behaviours change. Simply building a single mobile application or service and expecting it to be used by the majority for the foreseeable future is a non-starter.
The banks recognise this, and are looking at how to build a stable foundation platform which is flexible enough to respond to changing needs, but at the same time is stable and available enough to support 24/7 access from users. In turn this puts pressure on the development lifecycle and deployment process, both of which need to marry agility and responsiveness with a zero-tolerance attitude to service failure. Building solutions for a future of vast numbers and diversity of devices is the aim, and in parallel analysing and understanding how the consumer needs keep changing.
Mobile banking is a rapidly changing field, which leaves the door wide open to innovation from both old and new players. But the bottom line is that customers expect banking services to be there when they need them and working smoothly, otherwise they might as well stick with the high street option or go elsewhere.