What makes a great banking app?

By : Dan Weis

June 29, 2017 12:00 PM

No bank can afford to be without a mobile app any more. For many consumers - particularly younger people - their smartphone is their primary way of connecting with the world, whether it's to make purchases online, order a taxi or watch a movie, so being able to offer a great experience via these channels is paramount.


Yet there are still a wide variety of capabilities out there. While the best-performing apps can offer a huge range of features, allowing users to manage any aspect of their finances from their phone, others still struggle to provide anything beyond basic functionality. In today's environment, a poor experience could easily drive customers to a competitor, so this is not an area that businesses can afford to ignore.


A recent study by MagnifyMoney reviewed the offerings of over 100 of the biggest banks and credit unions in the US to identify the best and worst-performing apps - and eight of the top ten relied on NCR digital banking solutions. So what actually makes a great mobile app? Here are a few must-have features.


Speed matters
Slow apps will turn off many users, but this needs to extend beyond just loading up each page quickly. Users also need to be able to find the info they need at a glance, without having to swipe or hunt through nested menus.


Simple security
User authentication is a vital security step for any mobile banking app - but this does not have to be a tedious process. With a growing number of phones offering biometric tools, support for solutions like Apple's Touch ID is now a must for any good banking app.


Money transfer capabilities
Being able to move money between accounts or make payments should be a minimum requirement of any app. To make this as easy as possible, some apps enable users to send money to contacts using just their phone number, for example.


The ability to personalise an app can also help make life easier for users. UK bank Barclays, for example, allows consumers to assign a different profile photo for each account to help more easily distinguish between them.


Mobile deposit
Check use may be declining, but it's still an important payment method for many people. So the ability to deposit a check via mobile is still vital. In fact, this was highlighted by respondents to MagnifyMoney's survey as a key feature of its number one app - that of Eastman Credit Union.


Alerts and notifications
The ability for a app to send an alert to a user's phone - for example when their balance drops below a preset amount - can be highly valuable when it comes to helping people manage their finances. But alerts can also go both ways. Being able to use the app to notify the bank of a lost or stolen card is another valuable feature that shows banks are looking out for their customers.


Context matters
Effective mobile banking apps also provide a way for FIs to offer their customers most contextually-relevant information at any given time. For example, they could show car loan offers at auto dealerships, or lines of credit if a consumer is visiting a home improvement store a lot. Mobile devices can also be a remote control for a consumer's banking interactions, such as by using beacons to automatically check the consumer in when they arrive at the branch.


Moving between channels
Mobile banking apps also shouldn't work in isolation. Connecting with other channels such as social media or phone banking from within the app also make users' lives easier. Being able to call a representative from within the app and seeing an estimated wait time, or withdrawing cash from ATMs through an app, helps create a more connected omnichannel banking experience.


Nick Clements, founder of MagnifyMoney said: "In the past five years, adoption of mobile banking more than doubled, while the number of people banking on tablets increased more than eightfold."


Therefore, offering a feature-rich mobile experience that stands out from competitors and makes life as easy as possible for consumers needs to be an essential part of any bank's future strategy.

Dan Weis

Mobile Product Leader

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Dan works at NCR leading the retail banking mobile app team. The mobile apps are used by nearly 4.8 million consumers.