Mobile banking is becoming increasingly popular in Asia. Photo: iStock
Mobile banking is becoming increasingly popular in Asia. Photo: iStock

Immediate. Convenient. Innovative. Accessible. All words to define mobile banking, and all words to describe what customers in Asia and across the globe now expect from banking services.

Before our eyes we’re seeing banking rapidly shift from buildings to smartphones.

The days of visiting traditional banks are to become a distant memory in many parts of Asia. The physical activity of going into a bank to send a transfer, cash a check or report a stolen credit card are rapidly being replaced by an icon on a smartphone.

Today, individuals can access their bank accounts 24/7, 365 from their smartphones. You can review your balance, send money or report a lost or stolen card within seconds. Wherever you are. At whatever time.

Indeed, the experience of banking as we know it has been completely reinvented. As the majority of people have a smartphone today – by 2019, nearly 1.5 billion people are expected to have a smartphone in Asia alone – they are, in effect, carrying their bank around with them everywhere.

This “banking at your own convenience” trend not only benefits customers, but also the financial institutions, as it provides more insight into their clients’ behavior from data collated by the banking app.

However, an initial reluctance to invest has led to some banks trailing behind the cash-rich financial-technology firms that have shown a laser-like vision as to what banking now and in the future should entail. In effect, it’s smart finance for the smartphone.

Such progressions in technology offer today’s customer more choice, not just in banking but in any industry. Indeed, consumer loyalty appears to be becoming short-lived. If their experience as a customer is not up to scratch, or the technology simply isn’t available, they’ll move on to something that does fit their expectations.

Therefore, in order to maintain these customers, banks must provide the mobile services individuals expect, as well as offerings these customers don’t even know they can’t live without yet.

Furthermore, with the popularity of apps forecast to continue its  meteoric rise over the next five years worldwide, we could well be approaching a time when physical monetary transactions are a thing of the past in our daily lives.

The statistics speak for themselves. The downloading of finance applications globally has risen by 100% in the past two years, and nowhere more so than in the Asia-Pacific region, where this category has skyrocketed above all other app download categories, aside from games.

Indeed, in China we’ve seen mammoth growth in the downloading of finance apps, by as much as 230% in 2016 alone.

As such, leading banks must now be focusing on the continual enhancement of mobile banking services to provide an advanced customer experience and cater to the demand of the mobile-banking public.

In response to this, we’re now seeing various patterns coming into play throughout Asia in regard to mobile banking apps. As an example, in South Korea, banks have individual apps for different services, known as “unbundling”. This may include dividing transaction tracking, mobile payments and investments from the main offering. Splitting these actions up can greatly enhance customer engagement, and help to meet their needs further.

Naturally, it’s essential for banks to embrace these constantly shifting trends that are taking over from traditional banking, and look to advance and progress with technology innovators to improve their offerings to customers continually.

This movement in user needs is a massive opportunity, both for retail banks and also for new tech-motivated challenger banks. It’s the future of banking.

Nigel Green founded deVere Group in 2002 from a single office in Hong Kong after discovering a niche market for expatriates in the financial services sector. Since then, it has grown to become one of the largest independent financial advisory organizations in the world with offices and clients across the globe.

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