The smartphone obsession – how can banks take advantage?

If you’ve been online or near a TV in the last few weeks, you’ll undoubtedly have heard of Pokemon Go. Even if you’ve got no interest in running around chasing virtual monsters, it’s been hard to ignore the latest mobile gaming phenomenon, which has already become one of the most popular apps in the world, even outpacing the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

But while its innovative use of augmented reality (and a healthy dose of 90s nostalgia) has helped propel it to front pages, it’s also another example of how smartphones are taking over our lives. With millions of people now using these gadgets as their primary device for almost every activity, from gaming to work, there are clearly huge opportunities for financial institutions to tap into this market.

The first choice for Millennials

The extent of this obsession in the US has been highlighted recently by two separate surveys from JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America, which both offered revealing insights into the country’s relationships with their smartphones.

Bank of America’s poll, for instance, revealed there’s an ever-growing dependence on these devices. It found that 39 per cent of Millennials say they are more likely to interact with their smartphones than anything else – up to and including their significant other.

Meanwhile, Chase found almost a third of US adults admitted they would be hugely upset if they lost their smartphone. If this seems low, it compares to just 19 per cent who would feel the same way if they misplaced their wedding ring, which may speak volumes about people’s current priorities.

A key financial platform

Both surveys also revealed that this dependence on smartphones extends to managing finances. For instance, Chase found that compared with last year, 21 per cent more people are viewing their balance on their phone, while 20 per cent more are paying bills and eight per cent more are transferring funds.

Awareness of mobile banking’s capabilities is particularly strong among younger consumers. Some 93 per cent of Millennials know they can view their balance on their smartphone, which marks an 18 per cent increase on last year.

This compares with 84 per cent of Generation Xers and 71 per cent of Baby Boomers, though both these groups also saw a comparable increase in awareness.

Bank of America’s survey showed similar results, with the majority of smartphone users checking balances and statements (85 per cent), transferring money between accounts (58 per cent) and paying bills (52 per cent) when accessing their banking app.

The impact for FIs

So what does this mean for financial institutions? For one thing, it’s a clear message that if they aren’t making improving their mobile services a top priority, they should be. By increasing the functionality of their apps, they will be better able to attract new customers who will have few worries or concerns about making their smartphones their primary banking channel.

For instance, Chase noted that nearly half of consumers would happily leave their wallet at home if they knew a digital wallet on their phone would suffice, while 48 per cent prefer to pay using their phone as opposed to card or cash.

This should be a key sign to banks that consumers are willing to do much more with their smartphones than hunt Pikachus, so it’s vital they respond to these trends and give users the tools they demand.

Written by Andy Brown

Andy Brown

Andy is marketing director for payments at NCR. He has nearly 30 years' experience in e-payment systems from the delivery and support of systems in the Far East and Europe, from both the product management and marketing perspectives. Based in the UK, Andy is responsible for marketing NCR payment solutions.

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