Mobile Commerce Daily is now Retail Dive: Mobile Commerce! Click here to learn more!

Tablets will change banking forever: analyst

Led by Apple’s iPad, tablet computing is on an obvious growth trajectory, but how should banks and other financial institutions act on this trend?

Tablets are already contributing to financial services channel delivery, both inside the branch network and as a viable self-service channel on its own, according to research and consulting firm Celent.

“Tablets offer financial institutions the ability to improve sales effectiveness,” said Bob Meara, Marietta, GA-based senior analyst in the banking group at Celent. “Ask any salesperson who now travels with a tablet, and they will likely be quick to point out advantages versus the laptop – particularly in ways the tablet invites a more interactive experience with the customer, rather than a tool to be used by the salesperson.

“This has implications in the branch and in the insurance and investments brokerage realm,” he said. “In the self-service realm, it seems to me that the benefits are less clear—it is early yet.

“In their early-stage, I see tablets contributing more to sales-effectiveness than cost-reduction.”

Some very interesting conferencing opportunities will emerge from next-generation tablets’ video capabilities, per Celent.

For example, “Got a question on increasing your business line of credit? Let me get you in touch with our commercial lending officer – here he is…”

Tablet revolution
Tablets provide distinctive and compelling attributes that, in Mr. Meara’s opinion, will drive adoption:

• Mobility compared to the desktop platform, with the ability to operate usefully in both online and offline environments

• Particularly rich video delivery capability

• A unique form factor making the platform particularly useful for interactivity between staff and bank customers

Last week, USAA Federal Savings Bank launched its iPad application after months of design effort aimed at leveraging the tablet’s unique attributes.

Like USAA’s Internet and mobile channels, the application provides banking, insurance, investments and financial advice in one place. However, that is where the similarities end.

Ms. Meara said that the tablet application enjoys less latency.

Significantly more content is available above the log-in and it is more intuitively and easily acquired. And, the content is available whether online or offline.

Financial Management Solutions Inc., known as FMSI, is a provider of workforce automation services aimed at small to midsize financial institutions. It will be introducing an iPad integration to its Lobby Tracking System.

LTS is a Web-based, queuing and reporting tool that tracks key productivity, sales and service indicators.

Running LTS on a tablet in addition to desktops will provide financial institutions new options beyond traditional desk-based concierges.

Last month, Finantix, a Venice, Italy-based provider of front-end sales and services, launched its Wealth Apps 2.0, a comprehensive suite of wealth management applications for Apple’s iPad.

The company is planning similar applications for its banking platform sales application in the future.

Tablet applications are clearly nascent in retail banking at the moment, per Celent.

Mr. Meara said that banks should evaluate the use of tablets in future branch initiatives and keep the heat on vendors that are slow to respond.

Why? Because tablets will help branches sell more effectively with a reduced training burden, per Celent.

How might this work? Currently most banks rely on branch staff to engage customers as directed by staff-facing CRM systems—or no system at all.

Mr. Meara said that using a tablet interactively with clients reinvents the experience. It holds the promise of a more engaging interaction – one in which branch staff interact alongside clients as coaches.

In the process, much paper can be eliminated and workflow efficiency much improved.

As a self-service channel, tablets will likely emerge as yet another development opportunity, per Celent.

Mr. Meara said that no one really wanted another delivery channel to manage, but this one looks like it is a keeper.

At a high level, the functionality of a tablet application may be more or less unchanged versus the laptop.

One obvious exception might be the use of the tablet for electronic signature capture for opening new accounts and lending.

Rather, it will be the user interface and portability that changes the game most dramatically in the near-term, per Celent.

Longer term, Bluetooth might be useful to transfer a sales brochure or insurance questionnaire to a customer’s iPhone or email account.

Many financial institutions are still wrestling with the question of how their tablet platform should be distinct from their online and mobile offerings.

“In terms of how tablets can complement banks’ mobile and online platforms, it is not real obvious to me yet,” Mr. Meara said. “I think there is going to be some innovation in this area that will stretch the traditional boundaries for these channels.

“At the same time, there is going to be lots of mobile applications that get morphed into a tablet app and they won’t be very exciting,” he said. “I’d expect that a small minority of financial institutions embrace the tablet and do very interesting things.

“USAA is off to a good start, but they will concede just that – it is a start.”

Final Take
USAA for iPad