It is amazing to me how much hoo-haa the iPhone, especially in its new incarnation, is generating in banking. The thing is a phone after all, and yes, it has a nice new interface and is visually appealing, but does it really do all that much more than any other phone that’s out there?
It is easy to forget that there are are lots of people who can’t use mobile phones at all, let alone an iPhone. My mother can just about press the send key to dial a number. And when I’ve taken new banking self service options to her, she isn’t interested in investing the time to learn them.
My mother isn’t alone.
When I look around the office I work in, I am startled by how many people don’t have any kind of smart phone, let alone an iPhone.
Let us not forget there is a huge segment out there who are poorly served by this latest gadget, from a banking perspective at least.
This was brought home to me recently during various meetings at which I was pitching a new self service innovation we are considering. It goes directly to the segment I just described: the ones who don’t want, or can’t be bothered to, learn some new gizmo.
The universal consensus: everyone will do everything on the phone in a year or so. Doing anything else is a mistake.
My view: if people aren’t going to do the Internet, what chance have we got of getting them onto apps on mobile phones? And last time I looked, no traditional bank has 100% adoption of the Internet channel (and though I don’t have numbers in front of me right now, I’d bet that direct banks also have this problem, though to a lesser degree).
But it not the hype over the mobile channel that fascinates me, because there is always some fashionable channel in the news. It is the fact that everyone has fixated so heavily on one particular device.
There are shades of earned media envy showing, I think. I recall when certain banks rushed into Second Life, earning significant press fanfare. The result was the rest of us started to think about virtual worlds too. Press attention naturally waned, and so did the various islands established by banks.
Bank of America, with its recent release of the first native banking application on iPhone is similarly earning lots of press. It is causing quite a few banks to question whether they should change their online banking priorities to iPhone as well. Just the other day, a good friend in another institution told me that they were thinking about doing iPhone, and that suddenly it was the most important thing on the development agenda. We both laughed.
iPhone in banking is a bit of a fad. The present urgency to get on the bandwagon will wane as soon all the earned media stops playing the iPhone tune.
I wonder what the next big hoo-haa is going to be? Oh I know! The one that always intersperses itself in a banking slow news month: the branch is back, long live the branch!