The Digital Singularity

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By Mark Vipond

Recently I read a posting on the Bank Innovation site by Phillip Ryan entitled “The Tablet is a Distinct Channel, and Banks Must Design a New User Experience For It.”  Ryan made several good points.  The tablet experience does warrant consideration for the size of the screen, the gesture-oriented nature of the device and the relaxed use of the device that may lead to greater customer receptiveness to advice or offers from their financial institution.  I also agree with Ryan’s assertion that the user experience needs to be consistent across all digital channels.
However, it is at that point that Ryan’s begins to lose me.  For one thing “consistency” is more than displaying the same accounts, having the same access credentials and bank look and feel across “all” channels.  Customers expect much more.  They want the services and data provided by their bank to be the same no matter what device they are using.  They want to be able to readily move from one device to another during the same transaction without struggling to pick up where they left off.  In short, they want their service/data to be continually and consistently accessed no matter where, or how, they choose to do it.

Therefore, I find the title of Ryan’s posting troubling as it perpetuates a problem rather than the solution from the consumer’s point of view.  It reflects a historic, and outdated, approach that too many financial institutions use when new devices are introduced in the market.  To follow Ryan’s line of reasoning means that Google Glasses will likely need its own channel as will the iWatch.  What if the latest Samsung device features a different sized screen or swiping feature?  Does that merit a new channel as well?   

This type of “default thinking” prevents FIs from accommodating technology innovations, reacting rapidly to market trends and materially improving the satisfaction of their customers.  It needs to change because to the customer the digital channel is a singular thing across which brands are praised or left behind for others who get it right. FIs, and the technology vendors that serve them, need to be focused on delivering a consistent set of banking services that can be tailored to any digital device and can be personalized to the specific user. 

This is not a pipe dream. There are technologies and techniques that allow this to happen today. They are used by e-commerce sites that allow their services to be easily accessible from any device. What is preventing the banking industry from moving in that direction?  Nothing!  Nothing, except the historically accepted approach of treating each new technology innovation as a “new channel” or a “new silo” that necessitates the deployment of one more system that will struggle to interact with other systems to deliver a consistent set of services and data to the customer.