If there’s something that 2020 drove home for the industry, it’s that banking is digital – and digital is mobile. “In the last year we’ve seen a shift in how people are banking, and we’re now much more mobile,” First Direct CEO Chris Pitt has pointed out recently. At the UK’s first branchless bank, 98% of all customer transactions are digital and nearly five times more transfers and payments are made in the app (82% of payments) than online (18%). With banking on the go being the default option for many, customers expect safe and secure digital services that run smoothly 24/7, Pitt says.  

So what’s to come for mobile banking in 2021? And more importantly, how can industry players, old and new, get ahead in the mobile race? Here are my predictions to look out for.

1. User-friendliness is finally in

In 2020, all eyes were on functionality. Users saw new features added left, right and centre and mobile banking apps become more and more sophisticated. But more intuitive and easier to use? Not so much. Last year’s feature releases mostly focused on boosting sales and transaction volumes. 

This year, I expect a user-first mentality to take centre stage. So much so that more and more banks will bring UI and UX capabilities in-house, including design, development and testing. If new research is to be believed, this will certainly be a welcome change for app users. In The Mobile Banking App Playbook, a PYMNTS and Entersekt collaboration, 36% of consumers reported unsatisfactory experiences when using mobile banking apps, even with the simplest things like adding or removing someone from their bank accounts. Too many steps required to perform a transaction was the most cited reason for dissatisfaction. 

2. Banking is getting hyper-personal 

Apps that play well with personalisation solutions will become the norm in the very near future. And when I say personalised, I mean personalised to a tee. The next generation of mobile apps will appear, work and interact with customers exactly as they expect them to – and when their expectations change, the apps will change with them. 

Hyper-personalisation is not only about segmenting customers. Setting up customer profiles, of course, is a key step in the process. A retiree might want to see larger in-app fonts, high-contrast display and shortcuts to basic functions. A college student is more likely to appreciate digital-only communication, updates on deals and nothing short of super-app functionality. Banks’ ability to learn as much about banking customers behaviours as possible can make or break their digitalisation efforts. But so can failing to keep up with changes in these behaviours and respond accordingly.  

3. 3D Secure: blessing or burden?

Last year saw the last online transactions made without strong customer authentication in the European Economic Area. SCA requirements went into effect on 14 September 2019 and became mandatory by 1 January 2021. Meaning that web-based and in-app payments that aren’t processed via secured industry protocol such as 3D Secure will no longer go through. 

Now, the rules on what constitutes “authentication” are quite clear. Customers must prove that they are who they say they are by providing two pieces of information: something they own (e.g. mobile phone, token), something they know (e.g. password, PIN code) or something they are (e.g. facial features, fingerprint). Which measures are put in place, however, is entirely up to financial service providers. With customer retention and revenue on the line, achieving a balance between compliance and convenience is shaping up to be a major challenge for the industry.  

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