For mobile banking, the product is the experience

When the COVID-19 pandemic caused a 30% increase in traffic from mobile devices, First Foundation Bank decided it was time to get serious about that channel.

“In the beginning, mobile was a secondary channel,” he explains. lindsay lawrence, chief operating officer of the $10.2 billion bank based in Southern California. “Our first focus was on the online banking platform, but it was fascinating to see how human behavior changed. People now essentially live on their phones.”

Recognizing how critical the mobile channel had become, First Foundation designed a new mobile app to deliver a host of benefits, from lowering branch operating costs to creating an efficient and engaging customer experience to earn their long-term loyalty. The app launched in December.

First Foundation’s mobile initiative seems like a smart move as customers become more comfortable with self-service banking.

According to the BAI Banking Outlook for 2022, the use of mobile channels is expected to increase in the next three years, which would continue with a trend that has been in place since the start of the pandemic. Online banking, primarily done on laptops and desktops, was flat, while branch banking and self-service declined slightly in their share of the omnichannel mix.

“The efficiencies that our clientele will gain from a strong mobile app are very significant,” says Lawrence. “If we deliver with an easy-to-use mobile device, then the amount of traffic in the branch decreases and the number of calls to the call center also decreases. Obviously, it helps to reduce costs in general.”

A clear finding in the BAI Banking Outlook for 2022 is that mobile devices matter, especially for younger generations. When opening a deposit account, 37% of Gen Z respondents prefer to do so via mobile, compared to just 12% who prefer to use a branch.

John Hanley, senior vice president and senior director of marketing at Equity Bank, says the surge in mobile traffic caused by pandemic lockdowns in 2020 has receded. “But we have seen sustained growth in our mobile and digital banking,” he says.

The Wichita, Kansas-based community bank with assets of $5 billion has 70 branches in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Hanley says the bank has struck a healthy balance between branch and digital activity.

One of the great things about mobile banking is that it makes it easy for customers to access anywhere in their footprint,” says Hanley. But the bankers at the branch are still an important part of the equation.

“People still want help making complex financial decisions, like buying a home or starting a business,” he says. “They may be initiating relationships with us through mobile or digital devices, but our customers place a high level of trust in our branches should questions arise.”

Equity Bank will continue to promote and create value for its mobile channel. “We’re always trying to get more digital and mobile use into our product line,” says Hanley. “We realize that this is how people interact with their bank, their insurance company, their phone company.”

Through the Equity mobile app, clients can access their customer support team via text, email, or phone. Hanley estimates that about 70% of Equity’s clients use some form of online or mobile banking.

Tom Martin, CEO of Glance Networks, says the “pandemic has left the cat out of the bag” when it comes to mobile banking. The Wakefield, Massachusetts-based company creates digital engagement solutions for the banking industry and others.

“The pandemic has accelerated the mobile trend,” says Martin. “You have the reduction in modalities as the mobile phone has increasingly become the single point of interface. The phone is never out of the customer’s pocket. You can send messages and provide a level of engagement that exposes the customer to other parts of the bank.”

The phone brings the bank closer to the customer. “That makes it more accessible to people who haven’t wanted to do business with a traditional bank,” says Martin. “Mobile and digital can be an enabler.”

He adds that a mobile-savvy bank meets customers wherever they are, almost invisibly and frictionlessly. “That level of invisibility will be the new battlefield for banks. Product, feature, and price are no longer the competitive differentiators in banking. It is the experience.”

Edmund Lawler is a contributing writer for BAI.

Learn where mobile banking is headed “Mobile banking is on the move” an executive report from BAI.

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