From New Apps to Newer Portals

When it comes to mobile banking, it’s hard to pinpoint something new because there’s always something new. Every week, financial services and technology companies alike put new apps into the marketplace. Many seek to replace or otherwise improve on what’s in place now, while others try to come up with entirely new functionality.

Still, it’s important to monitor key milestones and emerging trends, and that’s just one reason why the news this week about Numbrs is quite interesting. In fact, there might be 3.8 million reasons, since that’s how many dollars its backer, Centralway, just pumped into it to prepare for a U.S. launch. The new cash infusion follows a $7.7 million investment the same backer has committed to making in Numbrs for a push in Germany, and there are also plans for a major invasion of the U.K. market. (Sticking with the international flavor, Centralway is Swiss.)

So what is it about Numbrs that generates this kind of multi-market enthusiasm? It’s essentially a dashboard, not unlike, that enables users not only to track or even predict their spending, but also conduct transactions and pay bills from within the app. Perhaps more interestingly—and this is where potential revenue streams may lie—it boasts of having the ability to predict future spending patterns. That’s surely a powerful lure to data-driven marketers.

On a completely unrelated note, technology provider Backbase, which bills itself as the Bank 2.0 portal specialist, this week added to its portfolio with software for commercial banking. The portal, which is sold directly to banks, features an all-purpose dashboard that’s fully personalized and enables users to work with every kind of existing app on every popular piece of hardware, from smartphones to desktops.

Sure, nobody’s talked about portals in the past 15 years, and dashboards aren’t supposed to be cutting-edge either. But these slightly retro concepts, and others like them, do point to subtle changes in the market. Essentially, they acknowledge that users will draw on a variety of apps from a variety of developers, regardless of the financial institution they count on, to do what they need to do. It’s up to the banks to accommodate them, rather than insisting on pushing their own products exclusively.

In this regard, the nature of the user demographic is very significant. The new xAd/Telmetrics Mobile Path to Purchase Study, out this week, shows more clearly than ever before which way the market is headed. To put in bluntly, the millennials dominate: Almost half of all mobile bankers are younger than 35, and a third cite their smartphone as the most important device for banking.

The numbers are clearly telling: Nearly two-thirds of these younger bankers relied on their devices throughout the transaction, from research to conversion. Even more, nearly 75%, say they noticed the mobile ads that popped up during the process. Bottom line: Nearly half of all online banking transactions now take place via mobile devices.

It’s easy to get rattled not just by the changes but the pace at which they’re occurring. The banking world has long counted on stability, longevity and loyalty, while the technology industry delights in going from upstart to legacy seemingly overnight. The regular flow of new apps with new capabilities, all of which have a direct effect on user behavior, seems designed to reward fickleness. But that’s the price we pay for the constant pursuit of innovation.

The new generation of core banking customers is accustomed to convenience and instant gratification, regardless of where they get it, and it’s up to the financial services industry to keep up. The flow of apps isn’t going to be cut off anytime soon, and platform technologies and methodologies, not to mention revenue models, must be broad enough to encompass them. Those that do it right, whether with innovative approaches like dashboards and portals or newer alternatives, stand to do very well.

Written by Staff