There are *exactly* 608 US firms offering banking fingerprint authentication

Biometrics are hot. Fingerprint authentication (Apple’s version is Touch ID) is one of the most common forms of biometric verification. So, quick – how many American banks let customers log on to their accounts using this method? Based on the press, you might optimistically think a few thousand, right? And, in fact, ApplePay just activated its 1000th bank (adoption is another story, and the subject of another post). Well, as of January 31, the actual number (not an estimate, not an extrapolation, and not a piece of data from Apple) was 608. That’s 9.52% of the 6,388 FIs offering a mobile banking application. How does that compare to three months ago, at the end of October 2015? At that point just 252 FIs were offering it. That’s an increase of 241% in a quarter, certainly a sign of robust growth. Some of the increase comes from clients implementing from their hosted solution provider. Others (generally bigger banks) are developing it in-house. And yet, it’s not as popular with the large banks as one might think (of the 21 with more than $100bn in assets, only 8 offer fingerprint authentication; 3 of the top 4 have it). Bucketed Adoption Does fingerprint authentication pay off? By one measure, something we call “feature lift,” it does indeed make a difference for customers. Banks whose customers have installed fingerprint authentication have an uplift of 53% in enrolled customers per deposit account relative to banks who don’t offer it. While this is correlation, not causality, it shows that the banks who offer this feature have more customers enrolled in mobile banking than those who don’t. We’re looking forward to analyzing many more mobile banking features to see which ones offer the biggest impact on customer enrollment. Uplift How did we access this information? I’m very excited to say that Celent is collaborating with FI Navigator to analyze the mobile banking market in an unprecedented depth of detail. FI Navigator has assembled a database of every US bank and credit union offering retail mobile banking, together with the vendors who host them. We’re feverishly analyzing this trove of data to bring you a report at the end of April. It’s different from, and additive to, work made available to our existing clients; you can find the particulars here. To let you in on how the sausage is made, we originally tried to find out how many banks offered fingerprint ID by doing a standard search (which turned up press releases and the like) and by contacting a few vendors. We were able to arrive at roughly 250 banks in total, including several dozen from one vendor (from whom it was difficult to get precise answers in terms of commitments, scheduled go-lives, and actual implementations). It turns out that we undercounted by more than half. The beauty of the FI Navigator data is that it’s derived from a variety of sources – on a monthly basis – that let us deduce and infer a huge amount of actual information about the entire US retail mobile banking population, not just a subset. By integrating unstructured website data and conventional financial institution data, FI Navigator expands the depth of peer analytics and the breadth of market research to create vertical analytics on financial institutions and their technology providers. So, in addition to my excitement at this new and powerful data source, I have three takeaways about fingerprint authentication:
  1. The gap between hype and reality for fingerprint authentication is big, but shrinking;
  2. Banks don’t have to be large to do this; and
  3. More banks should be offering fingerprint authentication.
Why is your bank or credit union not offering your customers the chance to authenticate with their fingerprint?

Mobile in the time of digital

Bank of America recently announced that it would triple spending on its mobile app. While no exact dollar amount was given, it made me wonder: what exactly does that entail? In the past, Celent has praised the Bank of America mobile banking apps as some of the best out there. The bank has been going strong with its digital strategy for years, even closing branches and reducing overhead to drive adoption. Bank of America recently added features like touch ID, debit card toggling, two-way fraud alerts, and more to its app, and has been outspoken about the desire to personalize the digital experience. Its commitment to new features and functionality is reflected in the comments and ratings on iTunes and Google Play. Shown in the graph below, the bank´s mobile banking adoption has been steadily growing, with a growing share of deposits. Pictureforblog                     Source: BofA Annual Reports/ Investor Presentations So again: what does “tripling” mean when talking about an app that has obviously been well-funded for quite some time? As digital assumes a larger role with the business, the funding required to build a digital customer experience will extend beyond the reaches of mobile. The capabilities many consumers demand can be difficult if not impossible without significant effort on the backend to align technology. Banks are starting to realize this, building out unified digital platforms that streamline the architecture and better position institutions to offer truly modern, data-driven, and value-added consumer experiences. These kinds of initiatives can often run in tandem with larger cultural and multi-channel efforts. In the press release for the announcement, Bank of America said it was launching a digital ambassador initiative which, similar to the Barclays Digital Eagles program, will see front-line branch staff reskilled to be able to assist with digital channels. The bank is also launching cardless ATMs later this year. I´m assuming the coincidence of these announcements is anything but, and that the funds for “mobile” will largely be dispersed over (or fit into) a wider array of strategic digital initiatives. Institutions need to create a solid digital base within the institution, bringing in culture, personnel, and technology across all channels and lines of business to start transforming digitally. Banks are being challenged by the notion of “becoming digital.” Many have reached the point of recognizing the inevitable digitization of the business model, and are in the throes of decision making that will determine how equipped they are to appeal to the new digital consumer. Most institutions are experiencing these growing pains, and very few have committed to digital at the level demanded by customers. If Bank of America is indeed tripling its budget just for mobile, then I´ll be very interested to see the kind of features the bank develops over the next few years. Yet there´s a lot that goes on to make the front end look good and spending more on the front will mean more spending on the back. Mobile banking is a significant part of digital banking, but remember that it’s only ONE part. While new functionality gets the headlines, it’s what’s under the hood – culture and backend – that truly matters.

Is the tablet banking honeymoon over?

Only a couple years ago, as mobile banking was growing rapidly, and the conversation around development strategies was at its height, tablets played a prominent role in channel strategies at the largest and most digitally mature institutions. The consumer interest in tablets over the last year or two, however, has plateaued—even waned. Tablet is nowhere near dead, but sales have started to level off. According to ABI Research, tablet sales experienced a 19% YoY decline in growth from 2014-2015. There are a few reasons for this:
  • Tablets have low replacement cycles: Tablets aren´t being recycled at nearly the rate of phones. Partially this has to do with wear and tear—tablets typically sit at home, aren´t charged as often, and aren´t dropped nearly as much—but likely a bigger reason is the lack of major advancements in hardware.   There simply hasn’t been a new tablet feature in the last couple years for which consumers are choosing to shell out another $400-600 (or more).
  • Phablets have taken over as the preferred device: consumers are increasingly going for phones that can provide the screen space of a tablet with the mobility of a smartphone. Phones have been steadily growing in size to meet this need. Phablets can provide the processing power to accommodate the needs of consumers for less.
  • Tablets haven´t carved out a distinct enough use case: It´s still unclear to what extent tablets are devices of leisure, business, lifestyle, etc. There´s the Surface 4 and others that are starting to seriously go after the laptop market with a full operating system and keyboard, but the best-selling tablets on amazon are all those with small screens and cheap price tags.
Celent´s discussions with banks have largely echoed this change, moving to a broader understanding of digital strategy and what it means to be “mobile.” It´s not that tablets aren´t important—far from it—but banks have limited resources dedicated to digital channels, and institutions should be thinking about prioritizing development where the opportunity is highest. A recent Celent report on digital transformation showed that more than 65% of banks cite resources and availability as a barrier to digital maturity. So what’s a financial institution to make of all this?
  1. Use responsive design: A bank may have been able to manage native apps when there were only a handful of devices, but that´s no longer the case. Responsive design has evolved to the point of being able to provide the same look and feel through an experience automatically tailored to the user´s device.
  2. Think about the consumer-facing branch tablet: This could be roaming personnel in the branch, tablet-like ATMs and kiosks, or as a way to streamline the on-boarding process.   The characteristics of tablet interfaces should influence design in other channels.
  3. Design the right app if large tablets are going to continue to be a priority: As the form and function of smartphones and tablets begin to move closer together, institutions will have to reassess where the full tablet experience sits within its strategic digital priorities. The consumer-facing tablet experience may need to reflect the evolving use case.
Celent will continue to discuss the role of tablets in financial services going forward, but the conversation around mobile banking will reflect the larger digital channels picture, rather than tablet vs smartphone vs. online banking. We feel this is more in line with the way the market is moving.

You can lead a horse to water…

A story on Finextra this week caught my eye. It’s a survey carried out by YouGov on behalf of ACI Worldwide, with these headline stats. Of 2000 UK adults, the survey found that:
  • 88% have no intention of switching bank accounts within the next 12 months.
  • 82% never use mobile payment services such as PayM or PingIT during an average month,
  • 59% never use mobile banking within this same time frame.
It struck me that you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t necessarily make it drink. Or rather, becoming digital doesn’t mean your clients will be. The first bullet has been extensively discussed in previous blogs. Consumers perceive no value in swapping, with a view that banks pretty much offer the same thing. The second bullet for me, is actually surprisingly high. PingIT is not yet 4 years old and PayM not even 3 years old, making an 18% “market share” pretty impressive. It’s also for one-off payments primarily, usually P2P, and given how (relatively) few transactions of those take place each month, it’s even more impressive. The last bullet to me is the most interesting, and perhaps is a reflection of the UK market as much as anything. Given my job, I suspect it’ll come as a surprise to some that I am in that 59% – I don’t use mobile banking, and nor do I necessarily have plans to. There are a few reasons. In the UK, Direct Debit rules. 71% of household bills are paid by Direct Debit, with an average household having 7 direct debits. Therefore, the same transactions happen the same way every month at the same time. This means I have to only actively make a few payments a month, which typically fall at the same time every month. The rest of my spending is primarily on my credit card – which isn’t issued by my bank. Another theme from previous blogs is that consumers typically hold their financial products across a range of banks – as a result, the mobile banking app will never tell me my financial position. I rarely even use my card providers app either – with the alerts I’ve set up, I get a text when I near the limits I set. As a result, there is little need then to check my spending on the app. But perhaps the most simple reason is that the UK has had mobile banking for over a decade. And whilst it is good to be cutting edge, equally consumers will give up quickly on something if it doesn’t work or value from day 1. And if you’d try using WAP banking back in the day, or the app of even a few years ago, you too would be thinking there is little point. The light at the end of the tunnel hopefully is PSD2 and the XS2A (access to account) proposal. Perhaps finally a good software designer will think through the customer experience differently, will have access to all my accounts and be able to deliver something that is truly revolutionary. It will be fascinating to track what impact the PSD2 has.

Why banks should pay attention to “Assistant as an App”

Last week I had the pleasure of going to Finovate, a biannual event (at least in NA) where startups and established vendors show off their newest creations. My colleague Dan Latimore wrote an in-depth piece about it last week. It’s usually a good temperature read of where the market is and what banks are thinking about. PFM used to be hot, now it barely makes an appearance. Mobile account opening and on-boarding was massive. Each year you can count on a few presentations tackling customer communication, whether it´s customer service applications or advisory tools. While this year was no different, I didn´t see any presentations representing an emerging trend in mobile: assistant as an app. What is assistant as an app? Basically, it puts a thin UI between two humans: the customer and the service provider (e.g. retailer or bank). The UI layer enhances the interaction by allowing each party to push information back and forth, whether its text, pictures, data visualization, etc. There are a wide range of possibilities. Apps are already starting to incorporate this idea. For a monthly fee, Pana offerings a human personal travel assistant who will take care of any travel related need. The concierge books restaurants, hotels, rental cars, and flights, all via in-app communication. Pana Vida Health allows users to push dietary information to a health coach that can then send back health plans, ideas to diagnose health issues, or create a weight loss regimen. The dating app Grouper uses a concierge to coordinate group dates. EasilyDo is a personal assistant that can manage your contacts, check traffic, schedule flights, etc. The app Fetch uses SMS to let users ask the concierge to buy just about anything. For a small fee (sometimes free, subsidized by business or premium services) these companies provide value-added premium services to customers through a mobile device. The applicability for banks is obvious. Finances can be complicated; most people aren´t good at managing money, and according to Celent research, consumers still prefer to speak to a human for important money matters. Assistant as an app would offer institutions a clear path towards monetising the mobile channel, moving interactions away from the branch, and capturing a growing base of digitally-directed consumers. I predict this will be a major trend in financial services in the future. What do you think? Feel free to comment below.

Unbundling, Fidor, and the model for approaching financial startups

I´ve recently had multiple conversations with financial institutions about the trend of unbundling financial services by FinTech startups. In fact, it’s hard to discuss the future of the industry without touching on it. Articles from Tanay Jaipuria, Tech Crunch, and CBInsights speak openly about inexorable disruption. They all tell a fairly similar story. Unbundled products and services disintermediate financial institutions by improving on traditional offerings. Banks lose that value chain. Banks become a utility on the back end, essentially forced by the market to provide the necessary regulatory requirements and accounts for nonbank disruptors. With images like this (see below), it’s hard to argue that it isn’t happening—at least at some level. Unbundling-of-a-bank-V2 There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical about the hype surrounding disruption by FinTech players (shallow revenue, small customer base, etc.), but even if only a few manage to become sizable competitors, that still represents a significant threat to banks´ existing revenue streams. There’s also data pointing to higher adoption in the future. A study from Ipsos MediaCT and LinkedIn showed that 55% of millennials and 67% of affluent millennials are open to using non-FS offerings for financial services. This number is surprisingly high, and the largest banks in the world are paying attention. The threat of losing the customer-facing side of the business is a legitimate risk that banks face over the next 5-10 years. But there´s a possible solution that could enable banks to remain relevant even as they begin to see some of their legacy products or services fall to new entrants: be more like Fidor Bank. Fidor Bank is a privately held neobank launched in Germany. It has a banking license and wants to transform the way financial institutions interact with their customers by creating a sense of community and openness. The bank views its platform, fidorOS, as a key differentiator that allows it to offer customers services from start-ups or new financial instruments. For example, it offers its customers Currency Cloud for foreign exchange as well as the ability to view Bitcoin through its platform. Going forward, it may make more sense for financial institutions to take this approach. Banks can´t be everything to their customers, and there´s a healthy stream of market entrants trying to chip away at the banking value chain. A middle way is that banks become an aggregator for popular nonbank FinTech offerings as they become popular. This would preserve the benefits of traditional bundling by aggregating offerings and re-bundling them alongside its home grown services. Some benefits include:
  • Maintain the consumer facing side of the business by letting customers access these service through your platform
  • Increase cross-selling and marketing opportunities
  • Preserve a convenient and frictionless experience by reducing the fragmentation of unbundling
These benefits would provide value to both the FI and the FinTech partner, and it´s not a new concept. Netflix is effectively an aggregator of content from a variety of production companies (along with creating great content of their own). The music industry has been offering bundled services for more than a decade. Banks are loath to forfeit parts of the business, but as other industries have seen, the longer they wait the more disruptive the change will be.

Biometrics: the next generation of corporate digital banking authentication

Corporate treasury departments initiate and approve millions of dollars in high-value payments on a daily basis. As an example, in May 2015 the average amount of a US Fedwire transfer was $5.7 million. Because of the dollar value of these transactions, banks were early adopters of enhanced authentication for corporate online banking applications. Many banks continue to offer one-time-password authentication (on top of traditional username and password) using RSA SecurID or Vasco DIGIPASS hardware tokens at both login and payment initiation. When Celent published its report “Corporate Mobile Banking Update: Adoption Conundrums and Security Realities” in September 2014, it highlighted alternatives to traditional two-factor authentication for corporate online and mobile banking applications. Alternative methods include voice, pattern and biometric authentication methods. As discussed in the Celent Banking Blog “Logging Into Your Bank in a Heartbeat”, several banks have rolled out Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint authentication technology for consumer online banking login authentication. However, as quickly demonstrated by clever hackers, Touch ID is vulnerable to various hacking methods. For this reason, banks are turning to more sophisticated biometric authentication methods for its corporate online and mobile banking applications. The focus remains on layered, multi-factor authentication, but combines authentication technologies in unusual and unique ways. Barclays Bank’s offering combines biometric and digital signature technology in an offering called “Barclays Biometric Reader.” To overcome limitations with traditional fingerprint scanners, Barclays is implementing Hitachi Europe’s Finger Vein Authentication Technology (VeinID) which reads and verifies the user’s unique finger vein patterns. The latest authentication announcement comes from Wells Fargo who is combining facial recognition with voice biometrics. Wells Fargo is working with SpeechPro to pilot the new bi-modal security solution (VoiceKey.OnePass) and fine-tune the biometric authentication features. The solution uses a standard smartphone microphone and camera to capture a facial image and voiceprint. Wells Fargo is also working on authentication using eye vein scanning (as opposed to typical retina scans). Biometrics New authentication technologies, from a slew of relative newcomers to the financial services space, could eventually replace traditional hardware tokens and eliminate multiple authentication hoops throughout the digital corporate banking experience. Watch this space.

Pushing beyond apps

It struck me while I was driving this morning: First-gen mobile apps are fine, but virtually everyone is missing high-volume opportunities to engage with their customers. Allow me to back up a step. I was stuck in traffic. Not surprisingly, that gave me some time to ponder my driving experience. I found myself thinking: Why can’t I give my car’s navigation system deep personalizations to help it think the way I do? And how do I get around its singular focus on getting from Point A to Point B? I explored the system while at a red light. It had jammed me onto yet another “Fastest Route,” disguised as a parking lot. My tweaks to the system didn’t seem to help. I decided what I’d really like is a Creativity slider so I could tell my nav how far out there to be in determining my route. Suburban side streets, public transportation, going north to eventually head south, and even well-connected parking lots are all nominally on the table when I’m at the helm. So why can’t I tell my nav to think like me? I’d also like a more personal, periodic verbal update on my likely arrival time, which over the course of my trip this morning went from 38 minutes to almost twice that due to traffic. The time element is important, of course. But maybe my nav system should sense when I’m agitated (a combination of wearables and telematics would be a strong indicator) and do something to keep me from going off the deep end. Jokes? Soothing music? Directions to highly-rated nearby bakeries? Words of serenity? More configurability is required, obviously, or some really clever automated customization. Then an even more radical thought struck. Why couldn’t my nav help me navigate not only my trip but my morning as well? “Mr. Weber, you will be in heavy traffic for the next 20 minutes. Shall I read through your unopened emails for you while you wait?” Or, “Your calendar indicates that you have an appointment before your anticipated arrival time. Shall I email the participants to let them know you’re running late?” Or (perhaps if I’m not that agitated), “While you have a few minutes would you like to check your bank balances, or talk to someone about your auto insurance renewal which is due in 10 days?” What I’m describing here is a level of engagement between me and my mobile devices which is difficult to foster, for both technical and psychological reasons. And it doesn’t work if a nav system is simply a nav system that doesn’t have contextual information about the user. But imagine the benefits if the navigation company, a financial institution, and other consumer-focused firms thought through the consumer experience more holistically. By sensibly injecting themselves into consumers’ daily routines—even when those routines are stressful—companies will have a powerful connection to their customers that will be almost impossible to dislodge. Firms like Google have started down this path, but financial institutions need to push their way into the conversation as well.

Logging Into Your Bank in a Heartbeat

Apple may not always come up with the idea in the first place, but by throwing their weight behind they can take the idea mainstream. Biometric authentication has existed for years, but it was Apple that really brought it to everyone’s attention when it first launched TouchID, and subsequently demonstrated with Apple Pay how biometrics can be used to authenticate a payments transaction. Now financial institutions are looking for ways to use biometrics to authenticate customers for other things, such as logging into online and mobile banking. Everyone agrees that the situation where we all have to remember a plethora of passwords and PINs has become unmanageable and is now a serious security concern. In the UK, RBS and Natwest have announced in February that their customers can now log into their mobile banking app with Apple’s TouchID available on the iPhone 5s, 6 and 6 Plus. The critics of biometric authentication point to a number of shortcomings – for example, TouchID was hacked soon after launch by using a fake finger from a photograph of a fingerprint left on a glass surface. If your password gets stolen, you can change it; it is a lot worse if the record of your fingerprint is compromised. And the extreme scenarios bring up the Hollywood-style scenes of cut-off fingers and loose eye balls. True, no security is perfect, so layering and balancing is important. For example, even after the log-in, RBS and Natwest require further authentication for some payment transactions. You also might want more assurances if you are getting access to a private banking account with high balances. Some banks are also experimenting with more sophisticated biometrics technologies. Last year, Barclays have trialled a special fingerprint scanner which uses infrared lights to scan blood flow in the veins of a person’s finger, and was planning to roll out the scanner to commercial customers. Incidentally, using the “vein profile” solves the “cut-off finger” challenge. Halifax, another UK bank, is trialling the technology from a Canadian firm Bionym. The bracelet called “Nymi” measures the intricate “cardiac rhythms” unique to every person, which can be used not only to log into a mobile banking app, but also potentially for many other applications, such as gaining access to the office, unlocking a car, or even boarding the plane and crossing borders. As always with new technologies, there is lots to learn and work out. But it seems that the future of logging into your bank account with a heartbeat (quite literally!) is not that far away.

Thoughts from American Banker Retail Banking Conference 2015

This last week the American Banker Retail Banking Conference 2015 was going on in Austin, TX. As expected, it was a great way to read the temperature of the banking industry. The conference was well attended, with broad representation from all institution sizes and markets. There were a couple of overarching themes throughout the event. Competitive pressures on smaller institutions were top of many bankers´ minds. The conference was full of community bankers discussing evolving business models and the pressures its placing on their ability to gather deposits. Customer centricity is forcing a convergence of traditionally segregated value propositions. Large banks are now trying to compete on serving the customer and they´re positioning themselves to look and feel like a community experience. New entrants and delivery models are also opening up the competitive landscape. Consumers are no longer limited by geography when choosing a bank, and they have a growing number of alternative financial options from which to choose. Smaller institutions are finding it hard to overcome some of the barriers of resources and marketing that arise as the competitive landscape broadens. Many presenters discussed developing non-traditional revenue streams. With interest rates low and new regulations following the financial crisis, banks are running incredibly thin margins, and traditional revenue sources are no longer viable. Presentations focused on targeted marketing for “moneyhawks”, new P2P models (e.g. P2P lending), and new payment schemes. A few thoughts on some of the talking points:
  • Breaking down omnichannel applications for financial services: Omnichannel within banking was a popular talking point between attendees and among presenters, and it´s obvious there´s still more than enough ambiguity around its application in the context of banking. One of the presentations used non-FI examples to look at how banks can approach integrating omnichannel into customer interactions. Home Depot was an interesting case study. The retailer combines the in-store and app experience to enhance the customer buying process. Customers can browse the app and make a list of the materials they need. The app shows only what´s in stock at the nearest physical location, and each item is given a corresponding aisle number for easy location on arrival. While in the store, customers can scan QR codes on each product to bring up specific measurements and statistics. This is the essence of an omnichannel experience. It´s not about doing everything from every channel—it´s about optimizing the customer experience across the variety of methods used to interact with the retailer (or bank).
  • Community banks differentiating from large institutions: This was a common thread running throughout the presentations. How do community banks grow deposits in a climate of shrinking deposit share? Presenters proposed some solutions. One spoke of the need to market correctly. A recent study found that despite problems with megabank perception, 73% of those asked said a recognizable brand was important in choosing a financial institution. A regional bank poll of millennials found that not one could name a community institution in their area. These institutions find it hard to inform consumers about the value they provide, and often lacking the resources and experience to do so. A few small institutions spoke about shifting towards serving small businesses. Despite only having 20% of deposits, community banks are responsible for 60% of small business loans. Focusing on small businesses could be a way for small institutions to remain viable, without having to drastically alter their businesses.
  • eCommerce and Merchant Funded Rewards (MFR) through mobile banking to help consumers save:  During one of the sessions, a banker made a good point: consumers don´t need help spending, they need help saving.  The comment reflected a number of discussions about the role financial institutions can play in helping consumers save money, but was echoed across a handful of presentations on digital commerce. US Bank discussed Peri, its eCommerce app developed in cooperation with Monitise, while other presenters spoke about card-linked and MFR propositions.  These initiatives are definitely innovative, but is conflating the ideas of saving and driving commerce shaping the conversation around a fundamentally misaligned approach?  First, will a bank´s eCommerce app be able to compete with the likes of Amazon and Google?  Banks often do not have the customers, data, or pricing competitiveness to match big online retailers, and they seldom win on brand favourability. Second, even when these initiatives are successful, do they really help people save?  For many, the data isn´t targeted enough for banks to offer deals on purchases a consumer was going to make anyway.  For example, based on one bank´s demo, a customer would go to make a purchase at a retailer and the bank app would push out a geo-located card-linked offer for a nearby restaurant. This requires additional spending.  Without the right data, these programs are mostly playing off impulse purchasing, not saving.
Do these themes resonate with your experience? Feel free to leave comments about how your institution is tackling these challenges.