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For UK Banks, Next Opportunity Is on Mobile

As more consumers take up smart mobile devices, UK banks cannot afford to marginalize the devices

March 22, 2013 | Mobile | Financial Services

UK consumers expect leading brands and companies, including financial service providers, to interact with them via mobile platforms. But according to a new eMarketer report, “UK Banks and Mobile: With Customers Living Mobile-First, Banks Mull Moving Beyond Basic Apps,” the current app offerings generally fail to take advantage of the immediacy, interactivity and convenience that mobile can offer.

It’s little surprise, then, that UK consumers have been much more likely to access online banking services via desktop than mobile, despite the country having some of the world’s highest figures for smartphone penetration and engagement.

According to a September 2012 study conducted by consumer interaction software developer Tealeaf Technology, relatively few UK internet users ages 18 and older turned to smartphone or tablet websites or apps to investigate financial services products in 2012. This was presumably a reaction to the poor functionality or range of information available from current financial apps.

Sources that UK Internet Users Have Used to Research Financial Services, by Age, Sep 2012 (% of respondents in each group)

Consumer appetite for mobile banking is clearly growing throughout Europe though. According to comScore MobiLens, nearly 30 million consumers in the EU-5 accessed bank accounts via their smartphones in July 2012—an 85% gain from July 2011. The number of UK consumers who turned to mobile banking during that period nearly doubled to approximately 7.3 million, propelling the UK past France for the top spot within this group.

As more consumers in the UK look to mobile to conduct their online banking, financial institutions that do not capitalize on the device miss a big opportunity for engagement.

Smartphone Users in the EU-5 Who Access Bank Accounts via Mobile, July 2011 & July 2012 (millions and % change)

According to a November 2012 report from Datamonitor, banks in the Far East and the US typically provide a far wider range of services in their apps, with tools like personal finance management, remote deposit capture (for example, depositing checks by phone) and customizable interfaces.

The most successful financial services apps are those that look at the world through consumers’ eyes, helping them gather or share information, carry out important tasks or solve problems—rather than simply replicating the activities one might perform in a bank branch or company’s office.

According to Gareth Mackown, mobile lead for IBM UKI Global Business Services, “There’s definitely an appetite within a lot of the banks and financial services organizations [in the UK] to be doing a lot more. Most of them are planning to invest more heavily in exploring what they can do through pilots and prototypes and [doing] early-phase exploration.”

The full report, “UK Banks and Mobile: With Customers Living Mobile-First, Banks Mull Moving Beyond Basic Apps” also answers these key questions:

  • How are UK banks using mobile?
  • What are the differences between banks and other providers?
  • Why has the banking sector been slow to take advantage of mobile and social channels?
  • What are the opportunities for banks?

This report is available to eMarketer corporate subscription clients only. eMarketer clients, log in and view the report now.

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