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Citibank exec: Tablet moves beyond being a lean-back device

NEW YORK – A Citibank executive at the Mobile Marketing Summit: Holiday Focus 2013 said that the company is adapting its mobile banking efforts to meet the evolving consumer relationship with tablets.

In the session “How mobile and tablet banking is rapidly evolving customer relationships,” the exec explained how tablets are becoming more of an on-the-go device that drives the need for improved mobile banking offerings. Citibank views tablets and smartphones as part of a larger ecosystem that blends multiple channels to provide consumers with a seamless banking experience.

“A year ago, we would have told you that [the tablet] was a lean-back device,” said Melissa Stevens, head of Internet and mobile at Citi Consumer Banking, New York.

“Now, you’re taking it on the go, there’s data plans, there’s better Wi-Fi,” she said.

“If you’re like me you take a hotspot with you too. And you’re doing more things. So we did a study at Citi to figure out when are people using mobile banking.”

The Mobile Marketing Summit: Holiday Focus 2013 conference was a Mobile Marketer event.

Tablet banking
According to Juniper Research, mobile banking users are expected to reach one billion by 2017, and 19 percent of these consumers will use their tablet to make financial decisions.

Citibank is responding to this shifting reality by rolling out tablet applications around the world. The app has already launched in Russia, Hong Kong, Australia and the United States and it will come to more countries in the near future.

Each tablet app has a similar look and feel, but has a few customizations based on each country’s language and financial regulations.

“Many more people own tablets today,” Ms. Stevens said. “That’s been important for financial services and everyone. Mobile banking is really on the rise. People are doing things on tablets that they haven’t done before. What’s important to us is how are they using it, how are they interacting.”

Citibank launched tablet apps for the iPad and for the Kindle Fire, but the iPad app met a more successful reception and adoption.

“One of the things we’ve been trying to do is simplify the experience, improve the navigation,” Ms. Stevens said. “You could very easily in a tablet app take exactly what you have on your Web site and reformat it. But how do we exploit the form factor while still giving you what you need.”

One of the ways Citibank catered their services to the tablet is by offering a variety of digital visualizations. Consumers can look at different charts that display data on credit to help consumers visualize the information.

Citibank also offers smartphone apps in more than 30 countries around the world.

Mobile Citi
Citibank has seen a lot of growth in mobile banking over the past year, with 66 percent of digitally active bank users using mobile or tablet at least once a month, up from 22 percent last year.

Additionally, AlixPartners found that 14 percent of customers cited mobile banking as a top criteria for selecting a primary bank, and 24 percent of young customers said the same.

The company realizes that consumers want to be able to access banking services via mobile, but it also believes that mobile is only one part of the larger structure.

Mobile is helpful for consumers who forgot to pay a bill and need to quickly get it done while walking from work to the subway. It is helpful for on-the-go banking.

Ms. Stevens, however, does not think that mobile completely replaces traditional banking. She sees an unique value in the human interaction consumers experience in a physical branch.

“Human interaction is incredibly important,” she said. “There are some things you just don’t want to do by yourself. If you’ve got a mortgage, I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t want to do it alone. You’d want someone to talk to.

“We can digitize a lot of that, but we can’t give you that human part that says you’re picking the right choice. But how many of you want to go to a branch and stand in line for 25 minutes and ask for your balance, how annoying would that be. So we optimize the channel for something else. Why not sign up for a text alert or sign into the app. Optimizing across these channels is critical.”