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Creating a profitable app?

“New mobile services have been established as stand-alone entities in their own right, with no integration into existing delivery channels, or indeed across other areas of the bank…The key to the successful and ultimately profitable utilisation of mobile within financial services is a clear and precise understanding of where it can add value and when customers will use a mobile channel rather than any of the others offered by their bank”. Gartner - Hype Cycle for Banking & Investment Services – Financial Times, 22 September 2010

Although Gartner is largely talking about the retail banking sector here, its assertions ring true for other areas of the banking world keen to take advantage of mobile technologies. With the cost of developing a mobile application increasing with complexity, it’s important to assess, not only whether your user wants it, but also whether it will effectively fit into your systems.

We’ve just set up a Mobile Finance Competence Centre in our Barcelona office to address these issues and are working with clients on their strategy for mobile technology, ensuring that the apps created can be supported by the bank’s existing systems. To stand the best chance of creating a profitable app, it needs to be technically efficient. This is also true of apps designed for internal use. The traditional rules still apply; does it add value; does the customer want it; does it work with our strategy and systems?

Building bespoke apps with a short time-to-market will require an intimate knowledge of all disciplines across the financial sector, as well as a deep understanding of processes and technology. It’s not going to be an instant fix for investment bankers, but mobile technology does have a big part to play in the financial service industry.

Graham Underwood, MD, GFT UK



Comments: (2)

John Dring
John Dring - Intel Network Services - Swindon 08 November, 2010, 11:12Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes


I am not really sure what you are trying to say?  I'd rather say that it sounds no different to any App creation.  The ability to cost justify an Apps potential is as hard as ever (no harder).  Any adoption is still difficult to model.  Are you justifying it on hard quantitative revenue terms, or ethereal qualitative measures such as increased brand awareness, consumer stickiness etc.

How are financial services Apps going to be any different - not many retail consumers are going to rush to download it unless it either offers to make them money (not you), saves time or it hits that elusive 'cool' button - preferably all of the above.  An App that tells the right stock to buy or sell might be of value to some - but you can do that with a web site or SMS messaging.

Apps work when they are used frequently, and I don't want to check mortgage rates, savings rates, banks offers or even balances on a regular basis, so I am not sure what interest I would have in a FS App.  My bills are paid paid by direct debit already, and any that aren't can wait til I get home to a PC to action it.

The only App I can think off that would be compelling is one which allows me to pay for stuff.  Pay for a Taxi, a sandwich, a magazine, a pint, anything under about £25.  That would require a trust relationship between the merchants and the App-bank, that a transaction response code is proof that the Bank has honoured the payment.  For it to be interesting to merchants, the banks would have to get together, like Link for ATMs or Payforit for Mobile Operators, to all support it, and I think that's always the sticking point.  And by the time you've fired up the App and exchanged whatever challenge/response you need to exchange - a PIN Credit Card transaction is just as quick.  Cash even quicker!   We'll get there but noone said it was easy.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 09 November, 2010, 09:16Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Thanks for your thoughts John; an interesting contribution to the debate. As you say, apps must be compelling and something the user wants (I check my train is on time before leaving the house each morning – there is no point standing on a cold windswept station this time of year).  I would agree with Gartner, that too often mobile services are established as entities in their own right, without thinking about integrating them at a technical or service level into the bank.  The financial industry does offer special challenges as Bank of America and PayPal, amongst others, recently found out as they now scramble to plug security holes in their apps.  Having got the station just in time, access to hot off the press research data from your bank might just prompt you to contact your broker during the morning commute whilst, for the bank, help retain you as a client.  Apps are just a part of this, but creating profitability from mobile banking needs thorough consideration of the technical issues. As you say…we’ll get there!

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