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.

Is Online Banking Dead?

Mobile banking is clearly a huge trend. Financial institutions have embraced mobile and are slowly but surely moving forward with updated apps, features and functions. I spend a lot of time talking to banks of all sizes about digital banking. From tablets to smartphones, mobile banking has dominated most of my conversations with banks and software vendors in 2013. Whatever happened to good old online banking? Are banks working on improving it? Are they spending money on online banking enhancements? Whatever happened to the promise of PFM? How is this all going to play out as we move into 2014? Banks can’t afford to drop the online banking ball. There are several key reasons for this:
  • The online channel is still the most popular with consumers of all ages. The results of our most recent consumer survey (September 2013) are quite clear.  While mobile is certainly growing in importance and popularity, online still rules.
  • Most tablet banking apps are pitiful. Kudos to the banks that have ventured down this road as it’s an interesting and exciting space. However, we recently reviewed the tablet apps of the top banks in the US, and most can’t compete with the features, functionality or experience of classic online banking. I recently spoke with a bank that had just finished doing some customer research to evaluate how customers were using their tablet app. Some customers had 2 programs running simultaneously on the tablet – the banking app and the online banking site in the browser – the simplistic nature of the standalone app simply wouldn’t cut it.
  • Digital banking needs to be more than a transaction hub for balance checks, bill pay and transfers.  Commerce / shopping, PFM, financial education, and so much more belong in online banking. They also belong in tablet banking, and pieces belong in smartphone banking –  but that’s a different yet complementary story.
Online banking isn’t dead, it’s a critical component of a bank’s digital banking portfolio. Banks need to balance their budgets accordingly so that they are able to efficiently invest funds in a common framework that can serve the customer. Users expect to pick up any device and have the appropriate experience. The burden is on the financial institution to provide it.

Insights from our Omni-Channel Roundtable

Celent recently hosted a client event called New Imperatives for Omni-Channel Delivery.  Motivated by the convergence of channels, we designed this forum to explore banks’ need to coordinate all the ways they touch customers across the entire set of organizational silos. Celent’s belief is that in the New Normal, retail delivery will never be the same. Retail banking customers are driving the most fundamental change in delivery that the industry has ever seen; these empowered consumers have new knowledge and expectations that are forcing banks to up their game.  Additionally, because the way that banks make money is changing radically, banks have no choice but to reconsider their overall system of retail delivery. A large expense for retail banks is their branch network.  It will have to change.  The branch of the not so distant future is more than just talk this time; it’s not optional.  It will entail transaction and sales/service automation; physical re-design; and cultural and organizational change.  Moving to this new branch mindset is a journey, not a destination.  Results will almost always delivered in increments, not via a “big-bang.”  Additionally, branch transformation needs to be executed in a multichannel context, and quickly.  Ultimately, this will result in fewer, smaller, more efficient and more effective branches. On the more technology-oriented side, Celent surveys show that mobile banking and multi-channel delivery are “top retail banking technologies.”  The tablet will act as a catalyst to the redesign of online banking as online and mobile are growing rapidly in priority.  Tablets are unique devices that provide a unique experience and shouldn’t be thought of us simply larger phones.  Digital startups are challenging the status quo with slick experiences and innovative business models.  In response, banks have to become digital powerhouses; they must take advantage of emerging opportunities and use them complement physical channels. We opened up a free-flowing discussion with a few questions for our banking attendees.  We think retail bankers of all stripes will do well to ponder them.
  • What is the customer’s perspective?
  • How do you coordinate between the branch, digital and other channel teams?
  • Do you watch other industries?  Who and how?
  • What are you doing to grow digital sales?
  • How will the role of the branch change in an omni-channel environment?
Celent clients can explore these topics more deeply through a host of current reports.  We’ll be reprising this event in Toronto on November 18; here’s the link: Additionally, we’ll be hosting a bankers-only roundtable called “Evolve or die: the future of the bank account” in London on October 17. Details at Finally, we’ll be hosting a broader cross-industry event on October 3 in San Francisco.  Entitled “What’s Next: The Search for Disruptive Innovation,” you can find out more at Hope to see you there!


I recently spent several days in New York speaking to a host of clients, both technology providers and banks, many of whom are focused on driving adoption of new technologies.  I was struck by the consistent increased focus on simplicity in the customer experience. Why is this important?  I contend that in human behavior generally, and financial services specifically, the most powerful force is inertia: a body in motion tends to stay in motion.  To get people to do something differently, you’ve got to make it worth their while to change.  There are two components to this equation: the size of the potential benefit, and the effort required to reap the benefit. As the perceived value decreases, so too must the effort to achieve it.  Because in financial services the perceived benefit is so often uncertain, reducing the effort required to achieve it is critical. Let’s look at the Apple music ecosystem (iTunes, iPod, iPhone, iPad, etc.).  The iPod wasn’t the first mP3 player to hit the market.  Wikipedia says that the first commercial players arrived in 1998.  But they were very clunky to use, requiring several steps to transfer music from a digital library on a computer to the player.  And while it was easier than recording a vinyl album to a cassette tape (to date myself), it was nevertheless a cumbersome process. Enter the iPod in 2001.  Moving music onto it was fairly seamless, requiring only a couple of steps.  Organizing music was easy, and the whole system just plain worked.  Simplicity (achieved consciously and with a great deal of hard work behind the scenes) played a critical role in the meteoric rise of iTunes. Now apply that same kind of thinking to banking, particularly the mobile and tablet experiences.  Reducing a process from 10 steps to five isn’t going to change much behavior; moving from five steps to two will. Your task is to make new processes simple enough for the average consumer to be convinced that she should start doing something new.  How can you eliminate those crucial last few steps to get to something elegantly simple?

iGoogle is Dead. Are Online and Tablet Banking Dashboards Next?

Google has announced that it’s going to deep six iGoogle, its dashboard portal to the web. Google is shutting it down because it claims that iGoogle, “had become less relevant in the age of the mobile Internet.” There are likely numerous reasons for this shutdown – Google’s “spring cleaning effort,” politics, centralization of web apps in Chrome, etc. I’ve personally always liked iGoogle and the concept behind iGoogle (although I have to admit I don’t use it much). In fact, the launch of portals like My Yahoo and iGoogle supported my thinking and research on the creation of online banking dashboards. This dashboard concept is something I have been writing about for years now, and banks and software vendors have been somewhat slow to catch on. This has however started to change, especially as tablets enter the picture – the perfect use case for a rich and interactive dashboard. Does the death of iGoogle mean that banks should abandon all plans for an online banking dashboard? Should software vendors be fearful that their investment in dashboard creation has been in vain? Absolutely not. In my opinion, iGoogle was axed because it becomes secondary to the Google experience. The web is boundless. In other words, when users go to Google they can launch into literally anything, based on their search. iGoogle attempted to box in the web. Online banking has boundaries, it’s limited to select functionality and activities. It works to have key areas grouped onto a rich dashboard – these groups are the home of widgets that can be informational, transactional, managerial, service related etc. There is a case to be made for bringing as much of that functionality to the forefront of the online banking experience – it improves user efficiency and experience, it can showcase other bank products. I can go on and on here. Unlike iGoogle, we have just touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to online banking dashboards. The tablet will influence much of this experience (you can read about this concept here). This type of environment is starting to take on a prominent position, as banks catch up to the design of an offering that Google launched in 2005!

Celent Innovation and Insight Day – Panelist Sneak Peek and Registration Discount!

Celent Banking Innovation and Insight Day is around the corner! The response so far to this event has been tremendous and we are expecting a full house. Come join us in Charlotte on June 13th to gain a fresh perspective on the future of mobile banking and payments, tablet banking, industry disruption, and more. Celent will also be recognizing the Model Banks selected for inclusion in our annual report. I am pleased to announce that we have secured some great panelists and presenters for this event. I will provide a sneak peek for the moment, others can be found by visiting our event site. A few others are going to be announced shortly: Tablet Mania: Banking Will Never be the Same – Jimmy Dinh – Senior Director, Mobile Banking Strategy and Planning, CIBCJeff Easley, Deposits Product Manager, USAA The DisruptorsAntonio (Yobie) Benjamin – CTO, Managing Director, Citi Transaction Services and Global Enterprise Payments Yobie is also the Chairman of Citi Innovation Labs. The event is free for Celent clients. Non-clients can save $125 by registering with the following discount code: celent2012 Discount is valid through May 22nd. Full event agenda and registration can be found here.

Top Trends in Corporate Online Banking

There is a lot going on in the cash management space, and numerous banks are steadily working on plans for up to date portals, solutions, and experiences. I published a new report last week, Top Trends in Corporate Online Banking. The report examines and analyzes the top trends in online cash management, and provides recommendations for financial institutions. Some of the trends are in full swing; some are nascent; others are expected to impact the space within the next three to five years. I encourage you to take a look at the report, and explore some of the trends. Mobile banking, social media, portal development, fraud prevention, the role of the tablet, and much more are covered in this report. I also recommend that you read this report in conjunction with, Corporate Mobile Banking: Revolutionizing Cash Management. I look forward to hearing your thoughts, and please feel free to weigh in here with online cash management trends and observations that are top of mind.

Celent Banking Blog – 2011 in Review

Happy new year! I thought it would be fun to recap 2011 by calling out the top 10 posts on our blog from 2011. The following list is based on total number of unique visits to each of these posts. Some of these are bang on as far as topic interest goes others may be surprising. Happy reading!
  1. ZashPay User Impressions
  2. U.S. Bank Deposit Point: Doing Right Things Right
  3. Tablet Wars: Online/Mobile Banking Will Never be The Same
  4. New ATM Rules on the Block
  5. Will Tablets Change Banking?
  6. Bank IT Spending and Trends: What Does 2011 Look Like?
  7. Celent Model Bank Awards 2011
  8. Is PFM The Future of Online Banking?
  9. U.S. Bank Deposit Point II: Will Pay-for-Deposit Last?
  10. Chase Website – Down Again

The Tablet Will Act as a Catalyst to the Redesign of Online Banking

I’ve been thinking about this for some time and wrote about it in a report I published this past June. It’s already starting to materialize. This week, Citi unveiled it’s new website, and it’s modeled after the mobile and tablet experience. To get a feel for the changes, have a look at the video Citi has on its preview site. I was out at the Bank Systems & Technology Executive Summit this week and had the opportunity to chat with a Citi executive about some of the changes. No doubt it’s a step in the right direction. I’m curious to hear what consumers think about the changes and the redesign. I’m also very intrigued regarding how adoption of PFM will materialize (see my blog post, Is PFM The Future of Online Banking? and my recent report, Personal Financial Management: The Devil Is in the Details). American Banker is reporting that Citi engaged Yodlee for the aggregation and PFM components of the site. Citi isn’t the only large bank up to major changes with their online banking solutions. Stay tuned for some upcoming changes at Bank of America. BofA is claiming that the outage they suffered this week was due to a “multi-year project to upgrade its online banking platform.”

Tablet Wars: Online/Mobile Banking Will Never be The Same

iPad mania has swept the globe. Android based Honeycomb tablets are starting to pop up like weeds. The Blackberry Playbook was launched recently to very mixed reviews. What does this all mean for the banking space? Is banking on a tablet considered online banking or mobile banking? The answer is both and neither. Tablets are unique devices with distinct capabilities and form factors. They typically share operating systems with mobile phone devices (e.g. iOS), however apps developed for tablets can take advantage of capabilities not found on mobile devices. The greatest difference is screen size and resolution. Sure, you can fire up that iPhone app on an iPad but you will have to contend with bite sized functionality in a little window that looks like a phone. It’s often cleaner and nicer (not necessarily quicker) to open up a web browser and load up the standard online banking login. Of course the best bet would be a native app developed specifically for the tablet. Do tablets impact consumer banking, small business banking, or corporate banking? The answer is all of the above. I’m going to focus on small business and corporate banking for the purposes of this post. Bob Meara put together a post recently on consumer banking, and we will publish another shortly. Consumer online banking has not evolved YET to the stage where a dashboard experience is commonplace. This is of course changing as PFM becomes more popular and as software vendors gear up for providing dashboard experiences (e.g. see this announcements from Intuit). The cash management and business banking user experience has suffered greatly (and still continues to suffer at most banks). However, readers of this blog know that there have been several key moves in the industry towards next generation solutions and the evolution of corporate banking portals (e.g. see this blog entry, Peeking Out From Under The Hood – Next Generation Online Cash Management). Tablets are going to have a massive impact on corporate and business banking. Here are a few reasons why:
  • Senior executives are on the go. The use of a tablet will be dictated by the role of the business user. The individuals who spend their time initiating payments aren’t targets. The users that approve the payments and who travel frequently are prime targets.
  • Senior executives have fancy toys. Yes, there are productivity benefits to tablets. Let’s be honest though, gadget guys/gals like the latest toys. Every flight I take is loaded with business users on iPads. Every recent conference I have attended has users banging away on their iPads. Since I’m an analyst I should give you real stats. Apple’s COO reported in the fall of 2010 that two-thirds of the 100 largest companies in the world on the Fortune 100 list have begun deploying iPads for enterprise use.
  • Online banking portal evolution is a natural fit with the tablet experience. There is a lot of complex and personalized data that needs to be displayed to the corporate user. The dashboard experience found online lends very well to the tablet (in a web browser, or ideally as a native app). As banks build out their portals they have to prioritize mobile and tablet experiences.

What brand of tablet is going to steal the heart of business users? What should banks be developing for? Should they build native apps or rely on the browser? This is where the debate starts. iPad was first to market and dominates the market. The Blackberry Playbook is brand new, and Android based devices just starting to be readily available (e.g. Motorola Xoom, Acer Iconia, Asus EEE Pad Transformer). My personal opinion is the iPad is out there now and isn’t about to go anywhere anytime soon. My bank clients tell me that most of their corporate users are heavily reliant on Blackberrys (no surprise there). With that said, it wouldn’t surprise me to see some uptake of the Playbook, particularly as it matures. It’s emphasis on data security is huge. Native cash management applications or small business banking apps for either of these operating systems would be ideal. RIM knows however that the iPad is going to be a really tough device to take on, regardless of how secure the Blackberry Playbook is. Yesterday RIM announced the acquisition of Ubitexx. This will allow firms with Blackberry Enterprise Servers (BES) to support other devices like the iPad or iPhone. It’s a huge and risky move for RIM, but it’s win-win. RIM has accepted the fact that iOS devices are selling like hotcakes to business users; corporations get to stick to the popular and secure BES.

I will attack the subject of tablets in an upcoming report on business/corporate mobile banking. I will also be speaking on the subject at the AFP Conference this fall in Boston. In the meantime, please pitch in your thoughts and opinions.