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Looking for cool tech? Try mobile banking.

By Brian S Hall / July 29, 2014


Looking for cool tech? Try mobile banking.

When you think of the coolest tech and the newest innovations in business or customer service, you think of banks, right? No? Fair enough, though perceptions are changing. Fact is, banks are implementing 21st century solutions across mobile commerce, payments, digital identity, and service delivery. Expect this tech to find its way inside your local branch, ATM, or smartphone—if it’s not there already.

Banks are everywhere

Banks are embracing mobility, touchscreens, big data and biometrics, because their very survival likely depends upon it. Mobile technologies, social media, demographics, new modes of payments, bill tracking, and digital currencies (such as Bitcoin) are profoundly impacting the banking industry.

A recent industry survey revealed that banks fully understand that they must undertake significant technological upheaval if they are to grow and remain relevant.

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This same survey, however, reveals that most banks are simply not prepared for this new, near-term reality. Speed is critical and big tech takes time to implement and master. Many banks are looking toward smartphones and apps to speed the process and to serve as a test bed for new approaches in enhancing relationships.

The highly popular Chase Mobile app, for example, is surprisingly robust. With this app, and similar apps from other banks, we can now remotely:

  • Manage our accounts
  • Deposit checks
  • Find branches or nearby ATMs
  • Review credit card reward points
  • Send money from person-to-person
  • Contact a customer service representative

The Apple Store model

When we think of banking, we commonly think of bank branches, but our perception of these brick-and-mortars will soon be changing. Rather than a large, staid branch with long lines, banks will resemble an Apple Store. Tellers, with tablets in hand, will take care of our needs quickly and securely in an open, inviting atmosphere.

In some cases, the bank of tomorrow will be little more than a kiosk with a large touchscreen, possibly one which includes instant visual contact with a teller located hundreds of miles away—like Amazon’s “Mayday” service. We will be able to conduct nearly all our banking needs from the kiosk screen. Biometrics will likely play a major part in this. For example, cash will be dispensed only after the kiosk verifies your fingerprint, or possibly recognizes your eyes through a retina scan. This should also enable a more personalized experience.

Facing the future

Experimentation is important, even for highly regulated, tradition-bound banks. This can lead to amazing new opportunities. For example, banks help us manage our money but they can’t necessarily get us to act, even when it’s in our best interest. Hard sells often turn people away. An app may change all that.

Does retirement seem a long way away? What if it didn’t? Face Retirement, an app by Merrill Edge and used by Bank of America, is designed to encourage us to get more serious about saving for retirement—right now, not years from now. How do they intend to do this? By taking a current selfie and then creating a 3D version of our future face.

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Seeing a version of yourself 40 years into the future makes retirement seem much more real. The app then tells you about the best ways of saving and planning for your retirement. You can even share the experience—and the older ‘you’—with friends on Facebook.

The bank in your hand

The future of banking technology is obviously closely linked to our new mobile, social world. Some of it’s already here, and some will make its way to our devices shortly.

Deposits, bills and payments

Numerous bank apps let you take a picture of your paper check, which then processes the check and adds the funds to your account. This is certainly a faster and cheaper process for all parties. Not here quite yet, but built atop the very same technologies, are mobile banking apps that let you take a picture of your bills—for cable, lawn service or garbage collection, for example—and have the funds deducted from your account and sent to the billing party. Confirmation and meta-data such as billing category are part of the process. In addition, services like Square are already transforming smartphones into credit card readers, allowing anyone to affordably accept credit card payments.

Video calls

Why drive to your local branch? Soon, you will be able to use FaceTime and similar video chat services to interact with tellers or loan officers.

Digital wallet

We often hear that Apple, Amazon, Google and a host of technology companies are working on creating a “digital wallet.” So are banks. A digital wallet, embedded within our smartphone, will include our banking and credit card data as well as our reward points, digital coupons, loyalty points, and identity. It should allow us to not only pay via our smartphone, but to always get the best deal.

Location-based payments

Banks are also working on ways to integrate barcodes, QR codes and similar technologies to let us to obtain and pay for goods and services from wherever we are. Check out the video below for an early example. Snap a picture of the code near your seat in the movie theater and you can order food and drink right there. The funds are taken directly from your account.

Visa and MasterCard (backed by banks) hope to provide standards and scale to make this form of commerce possible anywhere or anytime, whether from your seat at the baseball game to the line to board a plane.

Technology as a Service

Banks are already experimenting with smartphone apps, cameras, biometrics, and wearables, all to enable rapid identity confirmation, personalization, and faster/cheaper transactions. While some of what we now have or will soon have is useful, banks understand that to remain relevant, the latest technologies must be leveraged to:

  • Improve service
  • Reduce costs
  • Increase speed of deposits and payments
  • Secure our identity and our assets, even in a digital realm
  • Provide us with the data and understanding of how we can maximize our spending and grow our wealth

Peer-to-peer lending and payments, digital currencies (such as Bitcoin), and robust personal communications via FaceTime and video chat are re-making our expectations and altering our understanding of money, payments and service. Banks want to be a part of this, and we’re all for it.

Learn more about the future of mobile banking by reading our mCommerce Trend Report.