Four factors that will determine a bank's mobile account opening success

21 November 2017

Derek Corcoran – Chief Experience Officer, Avoka


For years now, the largest banks in the UK and around the world have been moving – some slowly, some rapidly – to make their account opening processes accessible on digital channels.  The consumer preference to initiate deposit accounts and loan applications from the convenience of a desktop PC or smartphone has been clear.  In the past year, our research indicates the trend has finally made important leaps forward, both in terms of bank readiness and consumer behaviour.  In particular, 2017 appears to be the breakout year for mobile customer acquisition in banking. 

We are constantly watching both bank product delivery and the resultant effects on consumer adoption, and measuring the impact.  Recognising that consumers want to initiate the bank account opening in mobile fashion, banks continue to respond aggressively. In 2017, 43% of personal banking accounts and loans can be opened via a mobile device, up nearly half from 2016. 

The coverage still seems to be spotty, however. In the UK, two thirds of the major banks have some significant mobile account opening on a few high profile products, but still do not offer the capability on the majority of the personal banking products accessible on their website.  Evidence shows they are missing an opportunity to drive customer growth.

How important is mobile?

The most conservative watchers of the banking market still have not bought into the idea that consumers will initiate a business transaction from their phone. Observations in 2017 for the first time are proving them wrong.

In a global bank with a new personal account opening process, account openings initiated from mobile devices for the first time outnumbered those coming from desktop PCs. The real surprise was not the initiation rates, but the conversion rates. The same bank saw completion rates for mobile customers higher than for desktop. Since completion of an account opening application correlates directly to new approved bank customers, this is one of the first signs that mobile has overtaken the desktop, both in consumer preference and in efficiency of the channel as a conduit for customer growth.

How to take advantage

The mobile preference shouldn’t be any surprise, since mobile internet traffic passed desktop a year ago.  But transactions like bank account opening still require a degree of trust and involve complexity that kept mobile from being a factor until now.  There appear to be a few keys to the puzzle.

Optimise the customer experience for the mobile user Converting a paper originated experience, or even a desktop web interface directly to a mobile device is sure to underwhelm and underperform.  The science of customer experience (CX) for mobile devices has made big advances of late, and its lessons need to be used.

Make it easy to start That means no password or app download. Studies show that hurdles like forcing a prospect to create a username and yet another password will surely result in abandoned sessions.  Or asking them to install a new App on the phone before any substantial business relationship is established will drive them away. Get the application going with just the basic identity and financial information. There will be plenty of time for identity and app download once the account is in place. 

Assume it touches multiple channels and doesn’t end with mobile Most successful account openings still require some assistance from a banker, or at a minimum require looking up some personal information and returning later to the application.  A “Save & Resume” capability is a must have, to allow a customer to start the transaction on a phone, then pick it up in a local branch or with the call centre to complete it.  Mobile is just the start of the customer experience.

Prepare to do it across the board Data shows that UK banks are about the same as peers in North America and Australia in that they digitally enable one high profile deposit account and leave the rest of their personal, business and wealth accounts alone.  The leaders in each market, however, have digitally enabled the majority of products and offer a consistent experience across lines of business. They achieve this by building on a common platform rather than investing in specific product silos and re-inventing the solution each time. 

Based on the data we are seeing, expect that after our 2018 research report is complete, the question of mobile engagement for bank customer acquisition will be old news.  

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