The Need for a Mobile Banking Czar

Mobility has risen to such a level of importance that it is providing an important tool for increased operational efficiencies, improved employee productivity, improved customer and partner satisfaction and innovation.  In no other industry is this more pressing than in banking where financial institutions are increasingly using mobile apps to set themselves apart from their rivals by improving quality of service.

Many big banks have already deployed sophisticated mobile apps. Chase Mobile Banking Servicesenables customers to pay bills, transfer money, check balances — and even deposit checks using their Android or iPhone.  American Express offers location-sensitive deals and coupons, and Capital One enables customers to share cash with a quick bump of their phones.

Deploying multiple mobile apps without a central coordinating function can be very costly in terms of time, money and security risks.  Creating a corporate-wide mobile strategy, defining best practices and guidelines, and managing mobile app development and deployment is best accomplished by having a formal “C” level function.  This position should oversee not only the bank’s consumer-facing apps, but also its B2B and employee apps that mobilize back-office processes.

Managing the Mobile User Experience

If apps don’t provide good, intuitive user experiences, they won’t be used, regardless of how much has been invested in advanced features and technology.

In order to ensure uptake and usage, banks need to provide natural user experiences on the different devices on which their apps will be used.  While custom coding native apps can be prohibitively expensive – as well as a nightmare to maintain, merely customizing web pages to fit the different dimensions of mobile device screens will certainly not suffice.  An app must be intuitive to use, usually employing the device’s native navigation features.  And information needs to be displayed in a way that makes it usable, actionable and appealing, taking into account whether the customer will be accessing financial information from their smartphone, tablet or desktop.

All that however is still not enough. Users also expect to use apps whenever they decide and not be at the mercy of intermittent internet service.  Therefore, these mobile apps should continue to work even in the event of lost network coverage, making offline capabilities important. Likewise, crashes and transaction losses due to high traffic loads are also unacceptable, and must be factored into account.

A central management function can make sure that all required user experience factors are accounted for in all the company’s apps whether through design or infrastructure.

Comprehensive Security Approach

Security fears are one of the main reasons banks and other enterprises have slowly waded into the mobility waters rather than diving in head first.

A central management function can help ensure security by developing, implementing and taking responsibility for compliance with a comprehensive security strategy for the entire mobile ecosystem: the device, the app and most importantly the data.  Because complex mobile app projects, like most banking apps, typically involve multiple teams working on different aspects, it’s important to have a central figure to take responsibility for coordinating the many different groups involved in each app and for ensuring compliance with strict security guidelines by all. Security holes are more likely to happen when different policies are implemented differently by different lines of business. In not taking a holistic approach to mobile security, banks can inadvertently expose themselves and their customers to security breaches.

There are many different tools that can be used to help ensure secure enterprise mobility at the device, app and data levels. For example, while basic Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions include policy management for devices, corporate data and content or applications, only some high-end solutions also include security mechanisms like data encryption, user authentication, malware protection or security regulation compliancy. Containerization can be used to help secure data at the device level for employee apps. While containers isolate enterprise data, they may limit the apps that are available to employees and because of reliance on device vendors’ SDKs, they may be out of date before the apps are even launched. App wrapping or sandboxing automatically wraps security policies around each app in a way that enables IT to add additional layers of protection to any app without changing the actual app. App wrapping that requires use of an SDK may interfere with an employee’s personal apps while others won’t.

With so many bits and pieces to consider, a central management function with an overall picture can best determine the type of security and management tools that should be in the bank’s tool box and if and when each should be used.

Building a Mobile Infrastructure

In order to extend business processes intelligently to mobile devices, today’s banks need apps that enable secure, reliable access to financial data with high availability, a native user experience and support for working offline.  They need to support user context across multiple platforms and devices, from a single development effort and with full back-end integration. Security and management functionality need to be built in, with encryption, mobile device management (MDM) support, and user authentication, enabling organizations to monitor and control who accesses data, where, and when.

When creating and maintaining multiple mobile apps, a centralized mobile function can help strike the right balance between the endless technology choices and the need for fast time-to-market, efficiency, security and cost-effectiveness. Mobile application development platforms enable cost-effective multi-channel development and embed industry knowledge so that common mistakes can be avoided. The right application and integration platforms can also help ensure compliance with financial regulations.

When different departments create their own mobile applications without central oversight, banks can end up with overlapping infrastructure components and without away to transfer knowledge learned from one deployment to the next. While it’s true that some apps will require different technologies than others, more than likely a central management function can affect cost-efficiencies by identifying mobile application development platforms, security and monitoring tools that can serve multiple uses.

A centralized management function is the best way to drive enterprise mobility forward within the organization, to develop the necessary infrastructure, application development guidelines, and comprehensive security and management strategies to support safe and effective enterprise mobility. With the competition for developing the best mobile banking app, and using these apps to engage customers as well as to do back-end processing, financial institutions need a central management function for mobile applications now more than ever.

David Akka M.Sc, MBA, is the Managing Director of Magic Software Enterprises (UK) Ltd.  A self-described “recovering techie”, David has previously worked in project management, professional services and CTO roles and is considered one of Magic’s leading authorities on Cloud computing, SOA methodologies, Big Data and enterprise mobility.

 By David Akka, Managing Director at Magic Software Enterprises UK.

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