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IT trends spotted and checked by experts

Head of Mobile at Royal Bank of Scotland

Ben Green is head of mobile at the Royal Bank of Scotland. Ben has spent 15 years working across digital, from small start-ups to large FTSE 100 corporates. He has a track record of spotting where leading...


Developing trusted mobile transactions

19 Mar, 2012 10:02 am

Four years ago, with a very modest investment of £50,000, and a handful of incredibly enthusiastic internet specialists, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) set out to develop its mobile banking services. We had to push boundaries and provide people with a new way to bank, but we’ve also been keen to develop gradually rather than rushing in major change. Our customers now move millions of pounds in total, each year, using our apps.

With such a small early budget for mobile development, we needed the IT infrastructure already in place to provide a huge helping hand. Re-use became the order of the day, and we were surprised to see exactly how far the models in place could be stretched to help build these new services. Our very first mobile banking systems ran on the back office infrastructure used for cash machines, and it's only been in the last few months that they've moved off. 

The decision was made not to re-use the web offering of online banking, because the user experience does not translate as well to the quick and simple needs of banking through mobile devices. Instead, we wanted to create a bespoke mobile experience, recognising above all else the need for simplicity and short processes. 

How our mobile strategy evolved

As we progressed with developing mobile services, we began to realise that we were on to something big. Each meeting room had to be larger than the last, and those sitting round the table began to include managing directors. Our customers were also showing us clear interest.

Our initial mobile offerings focused around the smaller and more basic services that we could offer. We started with SMS alerts. The reaction from customers bowled us over. To date we've sent over 50 million alerts, notifying customers of their balance and recent transactions, and of when they're nearing or in their overdraft. We've now expanded our offerings to provide bespoke apps for iPhones, iPads, BlackBerries and Android devices. The apps provide information on balances and transactions, allow fund transfers, and can even locate the closest ATM or branch.

Our mobile services allow us to deliver on our commitment to provide a helpful banking service for our customers. We've made sure that the ease and convenience customers loved about SMS alerts have become fundamental in all our offerings; if it took our customers more than a few taps to check their balance, or transfer funds, we've gone back to the drawing board.  Of course, there are different processes with each device: Apple uses set menus, Google has a new way of navigating Android phones, and BlackBerry has a set of different untapped capabilities. We have made sure the mobile experience is easy and simple on each device.

Building confidence in mobile transactions

We've also learned not to get carried away with the development. The wider market may demand innovative leaps forward in mobile, but we prefer to focus on gradual 'nudges' to boost confidence and competence in using mobile for financial management. 

This focus on customer needs has given RBS the mobile usage rates that outstrip many other apps available. We have over a million active users of the app, who come in on average 20 times a month. It means there's now a new time for us to have conversations with customers, and a new opportunity. Mobile 'wakes up' exactly when our customers do, and 6.45am is the start of our early morning peak for traffic each day. 

The next big step is taking customer trust further and deepening our relevance. This year, our mobile plans include moving more devices from basic transactions into payments. The first customers to receive payments capabilities were iPhone users, in December last year. Already over £150 million has been moved using the service. Android and BlackBerry payment functions are next, and will be available by early April. 

We are also going to focus on providing interactions that are more meaningful. One change will be seeing customers use a wider range of the benefits that accounts offer, including a simple set up of mobile phone insurance. Another is allowing customers to present discount codes at specific stores through their banking app.
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