When you want to know what’s showing at the cinema, or what's the latest score in the big game, what is your first instinctive action to find out this information? For most people nowadays, and in particular millennials, this action is to use their mobile phone to access the internet. Whether they are consuming apps, video, text or images to provide this data, what is now abundantly clear is that the mobile has fast become the indispensable tool of our species. From small tribes in Africa to tech savvy entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, our love for information on the move, has made the mobile phone the channel of all channels. Amazon know this, Google, Facebook and WhatsApp know this, and Uber definitely knows it. These are companies who have embraced the 'mobile-first' phenomenon, and evolved their business model and processes to support the new defacto in commerce.
With the rise and rise of mobile banking, financial institutions have also begun to adapt to the step change in consumer behaviour. A new spate of mobile first banks like Moven and Simple have already begun to show the way forward, and slowly the traditional giants that dominate the industry are making attempts to change and embrace the inevitable. It is not an easy task, and it takes more than a few strategy meetings to fully embrace those two words....'MOBILE FIRST'.
For many bankers 'mobile first' doesn't really sound like much of a discussion topic...it "sounds like we should focus on making our mobile banking better.....easier....yeah with more features". Yes, that is correct, "you should" I respond, but 'mobile-first' is actually less to do with devices and more to do with a cultural mindset and change in your business model and associated back office operations. Mobile first is a huge step for consumers, but it is truly a giant step for bankers. Bankers you see, are very traditional folk, and over the centuries have developed distribution models, policies and processes that have rarely been challenged by a superior alternative. The mobile phone has changed that and as its relevance and influence becomes more obvious day by day, bankers are having to tear up the rule book and reinvent everything from scratch.
Customer acquisition and the subsequent on boarding process is a perfect example of how mobile-first is transforming the banker. Where previously these two Key Performance Indicators would be determined by how LEAN your processes were, how wide your branch network was, and how good your sales people were, now it is about how good your user experience (or ‘UX’) is designed, and how well you utilize the camera on the mobile to automate a straight through process for compliance, risk assessment and account activation. Every element of the customer experience has changed, and all the processes and people skills required to make it happen are disrupting the banker’s mindset. Imagine that in a mobile-first organization the primary responsibilities lie with your programmers, data scientists, and UX designers to make the customer happy...and the more friction removed from the overall experience the better your customer will perceive you. Forget sales incentives and commissions, and how close the nearest branch is and think less ‘clicks’, ‘swipes’ or ‘screen taps’, and more beautiful graphic interfaces, and you begin to understand the panic that many bankers now face. Banking hierarchies are being challenged, and banking experience is becoming less about how things were done, and more about how things are going to be done. What was once an ‘Alternative Channel’ is now the ‘Primary channel’. A number of global banks have gone so far as to say that when they hire talent for developing their digital transformation, they do not want people with banking experience, but rather those who have worked in a mobile–first industry and can bring much of the culture and mindset of Fintech to the banking industry.
The problem with banks that show a willingness to embrace mobile-first is that often they face huge barriers with existing policies, processes and legacy systems that were never designed or implemented with this model in mind. Often, trying to change and migrate from your existing systems, people and processes to a new mobile-first model is more difficult than just starting a green field project to build a new bank altogether. If you had to create a new bank on a limited budget, you are more likely to get mobile-first right, because all thinking would be aligned to optimizing and make efficient the user experience via the mobile phone. Product development and sales team strategies will also have to transform, and the mobile-first generation will spur on a whole new level of straight through automation, that renders many jobs in the retail banking industry as obsolete. In essence the banker of tomorrow is going to have to be more like a technology startup CEO, with rich awareness of what technology can do, and how it can be used to build the best customer experiences. The mobile-first revolution has well and truly arrived, and with it the transformation of banking starts with the bankers responsible for its destiny.