Your Bank Is On TV

Ok, so the Apple TV is finally here. But how does that matter to us? Does this belong on a blog for financial services professionals?

If you do a web search for “Apple TV – financial services,” there’s almost nothing that relates directly to the subject. That’s because the TV is, well, a TV—an entertainment device designed for sit-back consumption, not lean-forward engagement. It’s a world apart from the digital experience of the modern era, right?

Sure, Apple has repeatedly revolutionized just about every other kind of digital experience—the Macintosh, iPod, iPhone and iPad each radically altered not only the way we absorb content but engage in interaction with people and institutions. Hype aside, each new Apple release has played a critical role in changing human behavior (in fairness, the jury’s still out on the Apple Watch.)

But in this case, even Apple seems to be hedging its bets on how different the experience might be. Sure, the company says viewers will feel “fully immersed,” and Siri is around to ease the crushing burden of scrolling and button pushing. The remote has a touch surface, there’s voice activation, you can bounce between apps and customize the home screen. The whole thing is like an experience that “makes you feel like you’re interacting directly with the screen, even though it’s on the other side of the room.”

Let’s acknowledge that, like most Apple releases, it’s pretty cool. The early adopters will eat it up, other companies will scramble to develop their own versions, and TV watching will be easier. But is that all there is? And does it feel slightly underwhelming?

Here’s another way to look at it, and it has to do with financial services.

As consumers, we’ve long relied on a few fundamental electronics devices, and arguably the three most prominent are the phone, the computer and the TV. (Yes, there are many others with more specific functions.) Of those three, think how much the computer and the phone have changed in the past two decades.

Some early PCs weighed enough to crush solid desks, and that landline phone from the early ‘90s belongs in a museum now. Today, they’re all sleek, portable accessories that serve up every kind of work and play functionality.

In the process, they’ve become critical to our line of work. Each successive wave of online banking, and then mobile banking, has drastically changed the most basic banking practices. Every financial services institution now has extensive resources devoted to both corporate and individual clients who interact almost exclusively through digital channels.

Throughout all this, the TV hasn’t changed much. The picture is sharper, the screen is flatter, and there are many more channels. But it’s still that device across the room we use to mindlessly consume entertainment. So what’s new?

Apple points to the future by saying it’s “all about apps.” However, most of the apps it cites already exist in other forms—the new technology brings them to the TV, which means we can see on the big screen what we saw on the small screen. But surely there’s potential for a lot more.

So here’s the big question: Could the next generation of TVs—and maybe Apple TV is just the start—revolutionize banking as much as computers and phones have?

Imagine apps that allow consumers to gain visual contact with tellers and investment advisers at their bank of choice (which may be halfway around the world). Conceive of a scenario in which an individual sees an ad for a product, calls up an investment picture for the company behind it, consults an adviser and makes a stock purchase—all while ‘watching TV.’

Even this sounds pretty basic. The truth is that each new wave of technology in other areas has ushered in a series of app-enabled capabilities that only seemed obvious after they arrived. So far, however, these advances have largely bypassed TV. That’s remarkable, given how much time we devote to watching it. All the entertainment it brings us is fine, but there are other potential services that the market will embrace.

Ultimately, the TV set is one more form factor offering a wealth of opportunities for new capabilities, just like those other devices we never thought we’d use for banking. The fact that it’s big, offers great visuals and is firmly embedded in the home makes it fertile ground for innovation.  We just don’t know what kind. . .yet.

Apple TV comes with a new operating system and a comprehensive software development kit that’s already in the hands of many developers. Rival offerings will soon arrive with their own incarnations of the same advantages. There will inevitably be a flood of applications that enable new capabilities, for financial services and many other industries. The only question is when these practices become widely adopted, and which institutions will be the first to profit from it. Any guesses?

Written by Staff