My dream of mobile banking has turned into a nightmare

I was an earlier adopter of mobile banking, which is no surprise as I was the head of product at Monitise when we launched the UK’s first mobile banking apps in 2006.

Back then I used to tell sceptics how I often found myself checking my bank balance on my Nokia even when I was sitting in front of a perfectly good computer. Why? Because it was so much faster to click an app, enter my 5 digit passcode and get my balance. At Monitise I set a user experience goal of being able to complete any transaction within 30 seconds from start to finish. And that meant from the moment a customer identified a need to getting the result, no starting from a logged in app here – convenience was the heart of mobile banking, and it needed to feel instant or as close as possible. And on that little old Nokia, with an old school GPRS network I would regularly hit the target for balances and statements.

7 years later and we have super-fast mobile networks and smartphones with hi-res touch screens, gyroscopes and probably more raw computing power than the Space Shuttle, and yet I’m a lapsed mobile banking customer. My first reaction today when sitting in front of a computer is to log on to internet banking, and with my new smartphone I never just quickly check my balance as I used to do regularly on my old Nokia. For me mobile banking is now only used in emergencies when I need to take action that cannot wait. My bank hasn’t changed but their mobile banking has (and I no longer work for Monitise so this isn’t a pitch!). The new mobile banking has more functionality and a simply terrible user experience that’s confusing, unreliable and frustratingly slow. To be fair they constantly try to improve by tweaking the design and issuing regular updates – unfortunately as an occasional user that means I’ve had to wait for the app to update every time I’ve tried to use the service in the last 6 months. The result of 7 years progress in software and hardware is a 45 second benchmark for an account balance on WiFi, and closer to a minute on a mobile network connection. It takes me 14 taps to get to a balance, when it used to take 7 (5 of which were the passcode!). The end result is that today it’s faster for me to log on to internet banking, and it’s also a much nicer experience.

I’m sure there are better banking apps out there, for a start many Monitise apps still use a 5 digit passcode which is so much easier than a complex password on a mobile device, and secure enough when combined with 2 factor authentication (the app on the phone being a soft token). But this story isn’t really about mobile banking. Rather it’s about maintaining a clarity of vision for you product, making sure that you really understand what’s important, and never, ever, comprising on your core benefit because changing customer behaviour is hard work, but doing it twice is nigh-on impossible.

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