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Not another mobile banking app in 2020!

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This is an open letter to all mobile banking app developers. We’ve become jaded from testing mobile banking app after mobile banking app. Mobile banking app development has hit a plateau, with most concepts resembling each other, in shiny new colors.

In 2019 I had a few conversations with some very smart developers and technologists who were in the process of developing or thinking about developing “challenger banks”. I also attended quite a few banking meet-ups and instead of getting excited at the prospects, I got this feeling that I’ve had enough.

Mobile revolution in banking has reached a ceiling. While developers all over the world are investing more energy in developing even more mobile banking apps, leading banks seem to have gone through a few technology cycles since 2015 to transform themselves into technology companies that are offering the same services as FinTechs.

When you think about it, we use a mobile banking app to do just 4 main things (regardless of the generation you fall under):

  • To view the bank balance
  • View recent transactions
  • Make bill payments
  • Transfer funds

Let’s take stock of where we are now with mobile banking “innovations”:

Not another mobile banking app in 2020!

Personal mobile banking apps that made a splash in 2019

Mobile Banking App Country What the App Does Sales Pitch
Chime USA Mobile-Only Bank It allows users to manage their spending and savings account with no hidden fees
Nubank Brazil Online Baking App It provides invoice and spending tracking and offers reward points
Mint USA Mobile Banking App A banking app that collects a users payment information and offers advice based on spending patterns
Revolut UK Mobile Banking App Offers a prepaid debit card, currency exhange, cryptocurrency exchange and p2p payments
N26 Germany Mobile Banking App Offers fast, flexible and transparent money management tools to control finances
bunq Netherlands Mobile Banking App Offers a “green” alternative to banking by promising to focus on the economy while you bank

These app are in all fairness looking to attract different demographics i.e. younger generations that are used to doing as much as they can on their mobile devices.

Business banking apps that made the cut in 2019

Most of the business banking apps seem to focus on business functions, travel and budgeting.

  • Tide
  • Starling
  • Revolut
  • Monese
  • TransferWisere
  • Soldo
  • Anna
  • Coconut
  • Holvi
  • Kontist

These apps are targeting mostly business owners who traditionally have an affinity to banks.

2019 offered homogenous banking apps

When you look at the app stores, almost ALL the mobile banking apps seem to have taken the same cereal-box advice and offer the following as “innovations”:

  1. Secure signup
  2. Real-time notifications
  3. Budget organization and analysis
  4. Instant money transfers to friends & family
  5. Investment advice and scheduled investing goals

Of course everyone expects certain features in a banking app. However, no banking app to date has been able to sell itself on just the most fundamental expectation: A simple promise that my money will always be there when I need it, just like what I have come to expect from my bank over the years … the rest of the features are just gimmicks I look at when I have time to browse through the app! After all, how much time do you REALLY spend playing around with your mobile BANKING app?!? (For me, it’s 3 minutes max and I’ve done everything I need to do)

Why then have FinTechs been touting the following features as mobile banking app “innovations”?

  • Instant money transfers
  • Fingerprint login
  • Mobile P2P
  • Mobile photo bill payments
  • Facial recognition
  • Expense tracking
  • Chatbot customer service

An innovation should be a feature that makes people look at their money in a different way.

What fundamental problem have mobile banking apps up to now purportedly been trying to solve?

Personal banking

Most personal banking apps seem to be solving the “convenience” problem

Business banking

Most business banking apps have sold themselves as solving the “red tape” and “time-wasting” problem

The state of mobile banking development

The last 5 years have seen a lot of “challenger banks” (and more are in the pipeline for 2020) and mobile banking apps. What both the personal and business banking mobile apps have managed to do is validate a long-held banking industry secret … it’s all about convincing the customers who to trust.

In 2015 I had a chat with a banking executive about the state of mobile banking. He believed banks would eventually catch up with FinTechs ( either through collaboration or acquisition). Banks have eventually caught up with FinTechs by convincing technology-loving customers (anyone under the age of 50) to buy into their mobile banking apps. In hindsight, the cynical bank executive was right.

So far on offer from FinTechs has been fundamentally homogeneous mobile banking apps with the same gimmicky functions dressed up as innovations.

Technically all I want to do is bank! Whether I do it on a headstand, doing a handstand or riding a bike doesn’t change the fact that all I want to do is get on with banking and be done with it.

Mobile banking apps have managed to dress up the fact that they haven’t offered anything new for a while other than window dressing. They are “banks” on smartphones … just waiting to be acquired by actual banks.

Not another mobile banking app in 2020!

Simply offering new services which are accessible via a smartphone only is not transformative.

My Wishes and hopes for 2020 in Banking and mobile banking specifically

2020 Banking Wishes:

  • I wish someone comes up with a concept that transforms banking the way AOL transformed E-Mail communication
  • I wish banking for the poor will be placed back on the agenda. More specifically, I wish VCs will start to finally invest in socially inclusive and transformative apps the way M-Pesa completely bypassed the banking structure and allowed the underbanked to conduct commerce in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Afghanistan, South Africa, India, Romania and Albania

2020 Banking Hopes:

  • I hope 2020 will not bring any more mobile banking apps that attempt to solve imaginary problems. Bottom line is, no one really minds a little inconvenience here are there. As humans we are prone to moan from time to time. So don’t develop mobile banking apps that apparently solve the “inconvenience problem” (only the overindulged seem to think that’s a problem)
  • I hope more decision-makers at leading banks will increase their willingness to commit to Blockchain and identify a genuine business problem that the technology can resolve. Only then can/should they develop a strategy for delivering a meaningful Blockchain project. Despite all its adoption difficulties, Blockchain has massive potential to transform financial services processes.

In Conclusion

There are a lot of smart thinkers and technologists out there! Let’s start REALLY transforming banking in 2020 and stop hyping less-than meaningful technology concepts in banking and throwing money at developments that offer novelty gimmicky functions.

A great and innovative mobile banking app in 2020 should mean just 2 things:

  • Not just an app that has high ratings but an app that has been rated by the greatest amount of people
  • The banking app that has helped millions of users not just offered the most gimmicky features for the few

2020 should start a technological race between banks and FinTechs … that’s the only way, we banking customers will get to benefit, regardless of the generation. They both can offer dedicated, personalized and useful features with high security standards.  

He has experience in developing online marketing campaigns, online & mobile product launches, and EU funding regulation. He is an active FinTech & MarTech blogger with interests in online banking, mobile banking, mobile payment, and insurance

1 Comment

  1. Alejandro Jimenez

    31. December 2019 at 16:27

    Well, it depends on the market. For example in Spain the mobile banking apps like BBVA Online account seem to attarct a lot of users. I can see why BBVA would focus on that

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