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Can smaller banks and building societies really make mobile work? 

At a time when the pressure on margins shows no sign of abating, many banks are struggling to make a case for investing in mobile. This has not deterred many of the big banks from launching a mobile offering in an effort to lower their cost of business and provide real-time customer service.

Many small and mid-sized financial institutions have been watching mobile developments from the sidelines, weighing up the cost of investment whilst pondering if, or when, the absence of a mobile proposition will put them at a competitive disadvantage. For institutions with a branch-centric business and an ageing customer base, the investment case can be hard to make, even more so for those who do not have a current account proposition.

Building societies have built their reputation around personal service offered through the branch network – with smart use of customer analytics this can be replicated via a mobile device. Mobile should be perceived as a complementary addition to the distribution mix, for example to follow up branch interactions, solicit feedback and qualify branch seller appointments. Some of the smaller building societies are leading the charge with mobile technology; the Cumberland Building Society has a full current account mobile offering, and National Counties has launched a mobile app for servicing loan and savings accounts. Nationwide Building Society has used mobile functionality to differentiate its savings proposition, with an email and text alert service (‘SavingsWatch’) proactively advising savers of rate changes and product launches.

An older customer demographic should not be regarded as a barrier to the uptake of mobile – the deployment of an intuitive savings servicing proposition via a mobile device, coupled with the support of branch staff to convey how it complements the branch offering, has the potential to delight customers and reduce the cost to serve.

The smaller players can take advantage of their nimbleness from an innovation perspective, putting them on an equal footing to their larger counterparts.

Mobile will continue to evolve at a rapid pace. Financial institutions, regardless of size, will eventually have to take the leap and embrace the potential of mobile technology in order to remain in the game.

Trust is a significant issue in the use of mobile and online banking. This is where many of the smaller players can claim the upper-hand, seizing the opportunity to capitalize on the loss of trust in the banking giants. Mobile banking provides a platform for a truly engaging customer experience that can serve both to attract and to retain customers, allowing small to mid-sized financial institutions to compete with the big banks through the provision of a technology-enabled servicing offering – how can any financial institution, afford to overlook the opportunity?

Jo Beagley, Manager, Management Consulting, KPMG in the UK

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