The Inside View on Mobile Leaders & Development

by on Oct 29, 2012

While nearly nonexistent ten years ago, mobile finance has grown to tens of millions of users today, representing an ever-growing percentage of financial clients. These users’ expectations will continue to rise as financial services firms introduce advanced mobile technology such as tablet apps, remote deposit capture and push alerts. This makes mobile both an exciting new channel to connect with clients, as well as a significant technological and competitive challenge. Recently, we surveyed our clients for their perspective on the state of mobile finance, their experiences with their own firm’s initiatives and the prospects looking forward.

We first polled our client contacts in 2011 leading up to our Money on the Move syndicated report, and fielded a similar survey in 2012 to inform our Mobile Monitor research going forward. Our latest survey drew 124 responses representing more than 50 firms across the financial services industry – primarily brokerage, banking and mutual fund/asset management companies, but also annuity/life insurance, property and casualty insurance and credit card firms. Respondents were familiar with and involved in their firm’s current or future mobile offering, with many serving in a leadership role.

Leaders – 2011 and 2012
As a key part of our surveys, we asked respondents who they thought were the industry leaders in the mobile space, if any. While close to twenty firms across the financial services earned recognition, there were several names that clearly stood out. The most-mentioned firms were Charles Schwab, Chase and USAA. In our opinion, these are three deserving firms. Each offers effective mobile platforms for a variety of devices including the iPad, with rich account information and diverse transaction capabilities.

Despite the constant change in mobile finance, these leaders have stayed among the top-rated firms over the past year, according to our survey takers. Other names earning significant mentions in both 2011 and 2012 include E*TRADE, Fidelity and Merrill Lynch, again all successful and active firms in the mobile space.

New names also entered the leaders discussion for 2012, though. Seven firms were mentioned by their competitors as leaders for the first time in our 2012 survey – American Express, AXA Equitable, ING Direct, MetLife, Oppenheimer Funds, PNC Bank and TD Ameritrade. Some of these additions may be a result of Corporate Insight’s widening client base as we expand coverage into the insurance space. Others are likely directly correlated to improvements in the firm’s mobile offering. For instance, Oppenheimer Funds’ Global Tracker iPad app is new as of 2012, and the TD Ameritrade Mobile app features improved design and capabilities such as the Snapstock barcode scanning tool.

Broad Successes, but Feeling Competitive Pressure
Our survey showed that overall, executives were satisfied with their firm’s performance, whether or not they considered themselves leaders in the industry. The majority of respondents were happy with their firm’s mobile offering and felt that mobile positively impacted their business, as they did in 2011.

Although overall satisfaction may have changed little, we knew that few firms stood still since the previous year. With that in mind, we had also asked respondents to rate their firm’s mobile development over the last 12 months. The most common response (43%) was that their firm’s mobile development met expectations. However, nearly as many respondents (40%) felt that their firm was not developing as quickly as expected. The mutual fund/asset management segment in particular struggled, with the majority from that space (59%) experiencing slower-than-expected development.

Across the industry, just 17% of respondents felt that their firm exceeded expectations in terms of mobile development. In contrast, a full third (33%) felt the industry as a whole was improving faster than anticipated from a mobile perspective. It seems that a significant portion of industry execs potentially feel that the industry is outpacing their own firm. Launching, maintaining and upgrading a mobile platform is a challenge, but firms must continue to make progress or risk falling behind.

A Wide-Open Competitive Space
Between our 2011 and 2012 surveys, mobile technology has continued to improve and catch on. Our survey shows that financial services firms feel they are making progress and meeting client needs. However, there are indications that some firms are finding more consistent success than others, and that competitive pressures remain strong. It’s worth noting, though, that, when asked about mobile leaders, financial executives’ most common response was that “There is no clear leader at this time.” Some names stand out, but in the fast-moving mobile finance space, success remains a moving target.

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Respondents chose the above firms as mobile leaders in our 2012 survey.
(larger font indicates more mentions)