How Should Banks Implement Mobile Banking?


If you take a look at the top personal finance apps for the iPhone, you’ll see that there are currently only a couple of banks with dedicated iPhone apps for their customers.

On the face of it, it may look as if the likes of Natwest and RBS are miles ahead of their competition in their use of mobile banking for this “new” technology (in actual fact, they’re both part of the same group and use the same developers for their app, Monitise).

But other banks are doing mobile banking in another way.

Platform Agnostic

Take Barclays for example. They’re currently pushing their mobile banking and are highlighting the fact that it’s “mobile platform agnostic”. Here’s an extract from a recent email:

“We’ve been thinking about Mobile Banking. And we think it should be, well, mobile. It’s not a revolution. And it’s not reinventing the wheel.  It’s just a dedicated service that’s bringing Online Banking to your phone, rather than the other way round. What does that mean for you? Well…

We’re not restricted to one phone manufacturer.

Our free* mobile banking service at has been designed to work on all models of web-enabled mobile phones, including iPhone, Nokia, Samsung, Blackberry, Palm and HTC.

You don’t need to be an IT engineer to use it

You can access Mobile Banking on your phone in the same way as you use Online Banking on your PC. You can log in securely, check your balance, look at recent transactions, transfer money between your accounts and make payments to existing beneficiaries.

We’re continually bringing in new features, and you will always receive the latest version of the service automatically – without having to hunt out and download upgrades.”

So they’ve decided that rather than developing seperate apps for the iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry and any other device that becomes flavour of the month in the future, they’ll develop a solid mobile site that should be accessible by all types of mobile device.

This means that they might be a little restricted in the features they can build into the site (they won’t be able to tap into the iPhone’s GPS capabilities, to show nearby Barclays branches, for example), but it may mean that development costs are kept down, whilst high compatibility with customer devices is achieved.

First Bank iPhone App

Natwest has probably got a fair bit of publicity from having one of the first bank iPhone apps (it’s also consistently one of the top finance apps, together with Paypal), yet may alienate some of their non-iPhone clients, whilst Barclays’ mobile website might not be “hip” but it should satisfy most of its customers with web-enabled phones.

Barclays iPhone Game

As an aside, it’s interesting that Barclays’ is promoting mobile banking with an iPhone-only game which ties in with their recent TV adverts, featuring spinning plates – kind of goes against its statement about not being restricted to one manufacturer above.

Anyway, there’s probably no right answer to the way this should be done, but my feeling is that long-term, if there are 3 or 4 different platforms for the banks to develop on then that will be manageable for the banks. Any more, and it will be more efficient to develop a good mobile site, accessible to all through a mobile web browser.

Dominant Platform

The decision will also depend on the penetration of the various operating systems and platforms – it’s clear that Apple will continue to dominate for a while, but Android phones are becoming more common, and crucially, I believe, cheaper. That could mean a change in focus from iPhone to Android apps.

What do you think? Should bank be expected to build different apps and interfaces for each type of device, or should they concentrate on a single, accessible-to-all solution? Let us know in the comments below.

Creative Commons License photo credit: TheTruthAbout…

6 thoughts on “How Should Banks Implement Mobile Banking?

  1. a .mobi site is not a bad bet – HTML5 is likely to have rich bindings to platform API’s pretty soon, it already can interact with geolocation on some devices.

    Whilst we have dodgy connectivity in the UK with only partial 3G and G very slow, then the offline and syncronised approach is still valuable. There are some limitations with html5 regarding this, and of course HTML5 will lag behind as newer sensors become available (e.g. chip and pin and contactless readers).

    Now and for some time – native apps reach parts of a device that browsers can’t…notifications, slick integration with other apps – text, chat, etc.

    In fact mobile devices could replace chip and pin then the binding with HTML5 and the device will need a new level of intimacy – which only native can achieve now.

    The other point to note about a mobile web site, particularly one rich in client side logic – javascript for example is that there is still considerable effort in testing on multiple rendering engines or browsers, screen sizes, resolutions and input methods – even in the converging mobile world all browsers are not created equal – of course it is still considerably less effort than writing separately for iOs, Android, RIM, Symbian, Maemo, Palm etc.

    Then there is the early adopter or ‘fanboy’ – still the numbers indicate smart phones have only just crossed the chasm, and that there are still devotees of each platform who appreciate a focus on their chosen platform – mobile banking is at an earlier stage still. So there is still marketing value in delivering to a specific platform.

    My advice push the boat out on rich native apps for the os’s in the ascendancy – iOS and Android, and deliver .mobi sites to the rest.


  2. This was a useful article before I head into a meeting about a mobile banking app!

    Interestingly the bank I work for has a site that is already pretty accessible by mobile browsers by pure coincidence… but the perception in the main will be that you need to be ‘on the iPhone’ (i.e. have an app) for a while now as all the agencies are selling that angle to the big companies.

  3. I personally don’t think that the Barclays service is mobile banking at all. It’s internet banking optimized for a mobile browser experience. I just don’t understand why a bank would only offer access to a channel by making registration for another channel a condition of use. For example banks cont restrict access to ATM to only those customers that use internet banking, why is mobile different. I also think Barclays might be having a problem with acquisition and retention because I cant find the service within my app store, and having to use PINsentry to make payments is a real pain. I think this is why Barclays branch managers have recently been pushing the service recently.

  4. I am a HTC Desire user and do not understand the logic behind my bank (RBS) developing a iphone app only. Surely it makes more sense to actually develop a mobile site like Barclays has ensuring ALL smartphone users benefit. It may be surprising but not everyone wants an iphone. I am tempted to move over to Barclays over the next year or so if things do not change

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