In the wake of coronavirus-related branch closings, the paramountcy of digital channels is clear: 37% of retail bank customers are now using their bank’s mobile app more frequently than ever. Even before the pandemic, users were increasingly utilizing digital self-service capabilities, especially finance mobile apps.

According to Corporate Insight’s 2018 bank customer digital experience survey, 45% of respondents primarily access their account via mobile apps, compared to 34% using computers. The trend is especially prevalent among Millennials: 54% primarily use mobile apps for digital access, and 93% use their primary bank’s mobile app once a week. We expect the trend to persist as members of Gen Z continue to come of age. Thus, industry innovation is shifting from online platforms to mobile devices.

A lower barrier to entry may help explain the rise of mobile-first challenger banks, such as Chime and N26. These new competitors leverage partner banks to avoid the regulatory challenges of acquiring their own banking charters, allowing the firms to focus on the strength of their platforms.

Money management emerged as an area where firms are innovating in a recent CI report (subscription required) that highlighted 18 firms with distinguishing unique and innovative mobile app features. These tools are especially impactful during times of financial crisis, personal misfortune and economic volatility, such as the 2020 global pandemic.

  • Betterment’s Two-Way Sweep automatically moves users’ idle cash into interest-bearing accounts so they earn as much as possible on their deposited funds and conveniently moves it back to ensure users are never left without enough money in their spending account
  • Goldman Sachs’ Apple Card payment visual clearly shows clients how much of their credit card balance they need to pay to reduce or eliminate interest charges, helping users escape debt and build their credit scores
  • Fifth Third and PNC Virtual Wallet both provide interfaces that make it easier for users to save, Monzo makes budgeting more flexible by enabling users to exclude purchases from the firm’s spending calculations, and BB&T offers several tools that assist users with financial planning

Firms are also innovating by using artificial intelligence to deliver personalized insights and provide bespoke advice. Early adopters—including Bank of America, Chase and U.S. Bank—show the potential of the technology and the possible applications of AI for providing customers with relevant account information and helping clients address their financial needs without requiring intervention by an advisor or customer service agent.

According to our survey, 40% of respondents consider personalized content based on needs and usage patterns very or extremely important. Among these respondents—as is the case with mobile app usage in general—Millennials value personalization most emphatically, with over half attributing significant importance. Offering tailored insights will continue to be a key feature to incent adoption by new customers, especially among Millennials and members of Gen Z becoming newly eligible to open accounts.

  • Bank of America’s virtual assistant Erica delivers a variety of account-related insights, including monthly spending analysis and various proactive notifications for low balances, potential duplicate charges and posted refunds
  • The Chase Daily Snapshot interface visualizes account activity and balances to help users understand spending trends and cash flow; it also includes interactive trivia tiles that help users contextualize their habits in the broader financial landscape and encourages users to engage daily by tracking their weekly check-ins, earned by reviewing the day’s insights
  • U.S. Bank’s home screen delivers occasional insights, including monthly cash flow analysis, actionable suggestions related to recent transactions and low balance alerts

For more in-depth coverage of innovative mobile features, read our dedicated report or subscribe to our Mobile Finance Research Services for biweekly updates that track the mobile platforms of leading financial services institutions and review changes made to each firm’s app.