Why Are So Many Banks Developing Apple Watch Apps?

There’s a big debate happening around the Apple Watch and how useful it is going to be. The discussions go something like this: “Is the Apple Watch just going to be a passing fad, or is it going to be really important to the way we live our lives?”

The passion shown in this debate online has been really unique – there’s been a lot of strong and well argued opinions on both sides. One of the biggest factors influencing people’s opinion of the Watch seems to be the role that you believe connected devices play in our life as a whole.

For people that see the Watch as another device – typically adults who are comfortable using connected devices, the Watch is yet another thing to monitor and worry about charging. Some may see the incursion onto your wrist as being downright offensive.

And then there’s another group, who see the Internet, mobile, tablets and Watches as seamlessly integrated into their world. They’re the kind of people who are apt to start a conversation on one device and finish it on another without noticing the distinction. On the whole, this group of people are more comfortable with the Apple Watch.

On the whole, I’d place most retail banks in the first camp. They’ve grown up in a multichannel world – call centres, Internet, mobile and so forth. As a result, they’ve really struggled to keep up with changing customer demands over the last decade.

Which makes it all the more surprising that so many banks are embracing the Apple Watch. In the last week, Citi and Allied Irish Bank have both announced plans to develop apps for the Apple Watch, and finance software house Misys has announced an off-the-shelf software app that any finance house can offer consumers.

Apple Watch has the potential to be truly transformative for the way we deal with our finances. I currently check my balance two or three times a week. This is currently a laborious process which involves me keying in a sixteen digit passcode, a PIN number, and letters from a twelve digit password. If I get these numbers wrong at any stage, I face being locked out of online banking.

On a mobile, the experience is actually worse. I have to pan and zoom around a site that wasn’t designed for mobile, and the chances of keying in a wrong number are greatly increased. It’s a hassle to use, but is the only way to get an accurate figure on the cleared funds in my account. As for the Branch / ATM Locator feature – don’t get me started.

The ability to check my bank balance from my wrist (possibly even authenticated by my heartbeat or a fingerprint sensor) will be transformative from a user experience and security perspective. The risk of leaving online banking logged in at a public machine, or my bank details being ‘sniffed’ over a public WiFi session would disappear almost entirely. I fully expect the first round of Apple Watch buyers to be early adopters who don’t mind getting burned by first generation tech. Unlike the first generation iPhone and iPad, some of the problems with this first generation are already well understood.

But, I do expect the device to surprise a lot of people. I think it’ll play an important (if auxiliary) role in our digital life, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a select group of banks who, for once, are leading the charge.



Categories: Marketing, Technology

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