With recent news that Barclays Pin-git (or is it Ping-it) has had 120,000 downloads in 5 days, that Square has 1m merchants on their payments platform (1/8th of all US card merchants/retailers) and Starbucks is doing 25% of it’s North American payments via a cardless App – it seems like Mobile Payments are taking off like the H1N1 virus. The interesting thing is that many bankers are looking at all of this activity as if it has little meaning or impact on their business at this point in time. I think part of that may be that there is a fundamental misunderstanding of how the mobile can be utilized in the banking and payments space.
When showing glimpses of Movenbank’s Mobile App I often get asked by bankers whether it is a mobile wallet or a mobile banking app? It’s as if the two worlds of cards/payments and banking are destined never to meet when it comes to a conventional view of the banking world. In banks today, we even institutionalize this by having cards as a separate division or business unit, separate from the retail banking function. The only time they ever seem to meet is in the form of a debit card or within internet banking. But the cards business, while being a strong revenue earner generally for banks because of credit card fees and interest margin, philosophically is not really considered banking per se by most die-hard bankers.
In fact, I’ve known banks where if you walk into a branch, the teller needs to call the call centre to find out any information about your credit card, even your balance. With many of the banks I work with, in-branch or in the contact centre, CSRs/Tellers need to navigate between separate screens to see your credit card details and activity versus transactions in your checking account.
For a long time these two worlds have remained largely operationally separate. The popularization of the smartphone is destined to destroy that division of labor.
The world of Two Channels
Today retail banking is emerging out of the hyperconnected, digital transformation age as not much more than a collection of channels and utility. In the past, you had branches which were THE distribution channel, but that has rapidly fragmented. You also had cheques and cards which provided you a mechanism, or utility, for moving your money around. Historically banking was really about two primary things – storing or protecting assets, and helping in the conduct of trade and commerce. Rudimentary cheques (or bills of exchange) were around almost 800 years before physical currency, and prior to bank branches ‘assets’ were often stored in temples and palaces. At the core of banking was assets that you either kept safe, or moved around to effect trade. In many ways, that’s still at the core of the bank value proposition.
As some of you may have noted in BANK 2.0 I call out bankers for calling digital channels ‘alternative’ or e-channels because of the psychology internally within banks that tends to put these channels in a subordinate role to the branch. Recently I was approached by a recruiter looking at placing a global head of ‘E-Channels’ into one of the big global brands and asking me for my input into how could take on the role. I told the recruiter that any digital guy worth his salt would immediately stay away from this major banking brand, largely because the decision to classify the role as a head of ‘E-Channels’ already told me everything I needed to know about the brand – that they still thought of digital as ‘E’ rather than mainstream, everyday banking. That told me that anyone taking on this role would still be faced with massive inertia around branch networks and would be fighting everyday to justify budget, investment and mindshare in the total channel experience – and that is why I said this brand was not ready.
With Internet Banking being the primary day-to-day channel for banking in the developed world, and branch frequency/visitation off 90% from it’s peak in the mid-90s, the branch is really ‘alternative’ banking today, rather than pride of place at the core of banking behavior. So the pendulum has shifted.
So what are the two emerging channels?
If you characterize banking today from a day-to-day perspective, you’ve really got two core classes of activity. Payments AND day-to-day banking based on your assets, including applying for new products, wealth management engagement, etc. If you look at either customer engagement, transactional activity or the role of an advisor in respect to your assets, you’d be hard pressed to identify activities that aren’t done through either Payments Channels or Delivery Channels (credit to Terence Roche @Gonzobanker for this insight).
Given the way retail banking is structured today, this means that many banks look at a mobile wallet as an instantiation of payments – the ultimate, downloadable payment channel ‘function’ or utility. However, they look at Mobile Banking as a mobile-enabled version of the Internet banking platform, which is ultimately just channel migration of transaction activity from branch to digital – hence, a delivery utility. Some progressive banks are even looking at onboarding customers entirely electronically through the web, mobile, ATM or call centre – without a signature. More delivery channels. The branch is the premier delivery channel still, and more so as transactions shift out of the branch, and it becomes about high touch sales and service (delivery of revenue and service).
When two worlds collide
The problem philosophically for retail banks is that the mobile device is collapsing this view of the world. Payments and traditional day-to-day banking utility will be packaged into one portable, handheld ‘channel’. It doesn’t make sense to have one app for ‘banking’ and one app for ‘payments’ or the wallet, you must have the utility of both the bank and payments capability in one.
That presents an organizational shift because it merges the two disparate parts of retail banking, but it also presents massive opportunities.
What is possible is that my day-to-day connection with my money is far tighter than it is in a traditional banking relationship. Whether it is simply the fact that I can see my balance before and after I make a payment (not possible with plastic, cheques or cash) or whether you can start to advise me day-to-day on how to utilize my money better – the opportunity for mobile is not the wallet, and not mobile banking. It is re-imagining the utility of banking from a mobile perspective.