Mobile Services: ‘An App is not a Strategy’

Six factors to consider when developing a mobile strategy.

June 27, 2012

The mobile channel is quickly taking hold: By 2015, 70% of consumer interactions with financial institutions will originate from mobile devices, says Shahab Choudhry, mobile strategist and co-founder of Propelics.

He says the overwhelming popularity of mobile devices tends to prompt a flurry of spending and invention—some of wise and well-timed, much of it not.

The financial services industry—typically risk-averse, Choudhry says, when it comes to adopting new technologies—has embraced mobile technology. “None of the other industries seem to be catching up. A lot of people still haven't embraced mobile, but 90% of chief information officers expect to deploy mobile apps in their companies in the next 12 months.”

Branded apps are becoming more prevalent among financial institutions, and apps for credit unions and banks are starting to look the same, with the same menu of accounts, transactions, capturing, branch locations, calculators, and records of payments and deposits.

This prompts Choudhry to ask, “Where is the innovation? Just having an app is not a strategy.”

He outlined six factors credit unions should consider when developing a mobile strategy:

1. Decide whether to build or buy an app. “You can't just skim someone else’s app and put your logo on it,” Choudhry says. “This will be part of members’ brand experience with your credit union. Once the app is out there, you can't pull it back.”

2. Decide whether to build a mobile phone app or an application for “lean back devices,” such as tablets, which are used less for transactions and more for content consumption.

3. Recognize that simply having an app isn’t a strategy. Determine whether this is the first piece of the mobile puzzle you should implement. Look beyond the financial services industry for ideas.

4. Simplify. The mobile experience differs from other delivery channels. It has lots of features and complex systems—but the mobile app must shield that complexity while being elegant and simple.

“You have to think through a lot of technical plumbing,” Choudhry says.

5. Focus on the member experience.

6. Implement a mobile device management roadmap to assess the types of data that will be touched by a variety of devices.

Determine how the credit union will address the issue of employees coming to work with smartphones, iPads, or other devices, and possibly exposing member data through such personal devices. What will the loss strategy be if an employee’s device is lost or stolen and it contains member information?

“Don't ignore this aspect,” Choudhry says. “It’s your risk.”

Choudhry addressed the America’s Credit Union Conference in San Diego.