Why banks need a chief mobility officer

Mobility has risen to such a level of importance that many people believe it deserves its own C-level position to advance and align mobility strategy throughout the enterprise. 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, writes David Akka.

Many big banks have already deployed sophisticated mobile apps. Chase Mobile Banking Services enables customers to pay bills, transfer money, check balances – and even deposit cheques 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.

Now that the race is on for the best mobile apps, having a formal function to create and drive a corporate-wide mobile strategy, define best practices and guidelines, and manage mobile app development and deployment is becoming increasingly critical. This chief mobility officer position should oversee not only the bank’s consumer-facing apps, but also its B2B and employee apps that mobilise back-office processes. Deploying multiple mobile apps without a central coordinating function can be very costly in terms of time, money and security risks.

Therefore, a CMO role requires much broader skills than deep knowledge of mobile technology: they need to understand how mobile apps can streamline business processes and increase customer engagement to show the value and ROI mobile apps bring to the organisation. By translating mobile apps into financial benefits and working across business units, the CMO function becomes an income generator and cost saver as opposed to a cost centre.

With the continuing rise of mobile devices, businesses get stuck between the rock of “one size fits all”, and the hard place of having to develop apps separately for each device and operating system.

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 customising 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.

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 CMO 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.

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 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.

Containerisation can be used to help secure data at the device level for employee apps, but while they 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 requiring use of an SDK may interfere with an employee’s personal apps while others won’t.

Therefore a CMO with an overall picture can best determine the type of MDM and other security and management tools should be in the bank’s tool box and if and when each should be used.

When creating and maintaining multiple mobile apps a CMO 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 regulations.

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 CMO now more than ever.

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

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