What makes an awesome mobile banking app?

How can digital banking teams offer mobile banking services that exceed customer needs and expectations?

This was a key theme addressed by researchers of Forrester Research’s 2016 Global Mobile Banking Functionality Benchmark report which analyzed the retail mobile banking services of 46 large retail banks from around the world.

Australia’s Westpac bank leads the Forrester Research report into top mobile banking apps. Forrester found the best mobile banking apps are helpful, personal and are integrated across touchpoints.

Other top performers included Spain’s CaixaBank, Canada’s CIBC and Scotiabank, Turkey’s Garanti Bank, Bank of America, Poland’s Bank Zachodni WBK, Lloyds Bank, Wells Fargo, and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CommBank).

Aurélie L’Hostis, lead author of the Forrester report:

“These banks are putting customers at the center of their strategy, striving to anticipate customers’ emerging needs, and embracing an agile and iterative approach to speed development of new mobile banking capabilities that differentiate them from their peers.”

Mobile banking apps were rated on seven categories:

  • The range of touchpoints
  • Enrolment and login
  • Account information
  • Transactional functionality
  • Service features
  • Cross-channel guidance
  • Marketing and sales.

In China, an additional criterion was added to reflect the importance of WeChat to Chinese mobile users.

The report found many banks are strong on transactional features but weak on services and sales. While many had improved their transactional offerings, such as peer-to-peer (P2P) transfers and mobile bill payments and provide useful service tools, there is significant room for improvement.

Key takeaways of the Forrester Research report found:

1. An iterative approach to mobile

Banks with strong relationships between their digital business strategy and technology management teams performed better.

These departments not only work closely together, but instigate a test and learn mentality.

2. Improved transactional features

Mobile banking needs to meet the customer’s basic mobile needs and expectations, and much of that is in the ease with which they can make a transaction. Banks doing this well will already allow customers to make P2P payments, add a payee without having to register them online first or pay a bill to a new biller in mobile.

The enablement of ‘real-time’ money transfers has also increased at many banks.

Many are enabling contactless mobile payments such as Apple Pay or providing their own integrated digital wallets.

3. Enhanced mobile service and sales features

For many banks, service features and marketing and sales remain weak spots, Forrester finds.

CommBank, Westpac, ICICI Bank, Alipay, China Merchants Bank and BBVA, were the only six banks in the review to incorporate an app-wide search engine to help customers find what they are looking for. This is an important element in helping the consumer research or apply for financial products directly from within the mobile app.

4. A wide range of mobile touchpoints

A good mobile banking app should cater for different touchpoints, operating systems (including Android, BlackBerry OS, iOS, and Windows Phone), device types and mobile browsers in order to serve customers in their various mobile moments.

The capabilities of SMS should not be ruled out for customers without a smartphone. In China’s case, messaging app WeChat has become a popular customer service channel.

Apps should be specifically designed for tablets and emerging touchpoints, such as wearables. For example, Bank Millennium lets customers find ATMs and make payments in stores from an Apple Watch.

Forrester_Bank Millenium_Apple Watch_600

*Bank Millennium’s Apple Watch app lets customers find ATMs and make payments in stores. Source: Bank Millennium Apple Watch app / Forrester’s 2016 Global Mobile Banking Functionality Benchmark report.

Great mobile banking apps offer a wide range of alerts, assist customers to find specific information about the different tasks they can perform on a screen and have tutorials, demonstrations and videos to help the user better understand new features.

5. Easy enrolment and login

Top banks go beyond simple enrolment and log in processes for mobile banking and provide additional ‘how to’ information and contextual security and privacy content to reassure their mobile banking customers.

Westpac for example, offers “how-to” videos before the login process starts to help customers understand key mobile functionalities.

Forrester_Westpac_Mobile banking app_How to video_600

*Westpac’s how-to videos. Source: Westpac mobile banking app / Forrester’s 2016 Global Mobile Banking Functionality Benchmark report.

6. Easy access to account information and money management tools

Customers want to be able to see, understand and manage their finances from any touchpoint, Forrester finds.

By offering additional services such as easy access to transaction history, forecasting and spending tools or being able to track banking goals, banks have a further opportunity to engage with customers by offering financial tips, suggestions, and advice.

7. Online to offline

Good apps allow customers to easily access offline touchpoints whether that is in the form of contact phone numbers, assistance via social media pages, or geolocation tools to locate branches and ATMs.

Wells Fargo for example offers a “Call us” option and displays the estimated wait time to speak with a representative – all from within the app.

Forrester_Wells Fargo_customer service_600

*Source: Wells Fargo / Forrester’s 2016 Global Mobile Banking Functionality Benchmark report.

Leading banks are showing innovation when it comes to this. Westpac for example, lets customers withdraw cash from ATMs using a code generated on their mobile app or smartwatch or by scanning a QR code at the ATM. A number of other banks let customers book branch appointments directly from the app.

Forrester_Westpac_ATM code_app store 300

*Westpac’s mobile banking app and ATM code function


Financial institutions are facing increased competition not just from each other but from new digital banks and financial technologies. Therefore, the key to a customer’s loyalty is by offering the best customer experience.

Mobile banking apps should be helpful, personal, relevant and integrated across both online and offline touch points, the report finds.

“To win and retain mindshare and wallet share, digital banking teams need to focus on using mobile banking not only to meet customers’ banking needs but also to create new sources of value.

To fend off the risks of disintermediation and commoditization, mobile banking must evolve to become a platform for customer engagement.”

Our Innovation in Retail Banking report outlines 50 of the most significant innovations in retail banking in recent months, with an analysis of how these innovations are transforming the retail banking sector.

*Featured image: Westpac’s mobile banking app on Apple Watch.

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