Mobile banking is vital to consumers, Citi says

| by Will Hernandez
Mobile banking is vital to consumers, Citi says

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In today's digital world, the majority of bank executives from both small and large financial institutions realize how vital it is to have an engaging and useful mobile presence for their customers.

And for those executives who have yet to grasp just how necessary that presence is for today's digital consumer, consider one interesting nugget of information from the second annual mobile banking study by Citi:

  • Of 2,000 U.S. adults surveyed, mobile banking app use ranked third (31 percent) behind only social media (55 percent) and weather apps (33 percent).

This particular data point supports a couple of high-level views bankers have uttered at industry conferences the last two years as brands put more emphasis on the digital customer experience: 

  • A mobile banking app can be a central point in a consumer's digital life.
  • Now more than ever, banks are competing against nonfinancial institutions such as social media companies, retailers and others (think Uber) when it comes to providing an ideal mobile experience.

"Some of the [survey results] were validation of where things are going while other things were really interesting to me, such as the acceleration of mobile banking in people's lives," Alice Milligan, chief digital client experience officer for U.S. consumer banking at Citi, told industry media during a luncheon in New York City ahead of the study's official release.

Wakefield Research conducted the survey on behalf of Citi, polling 2,000 U.S. adults over the age of 18 from Feb. 22-28 via email invitation and online survey.

Milligan said that in Citi's case, mobile banking use in North America rose almost 25 percent in the last year.

She attributed the increase to the bank's two-pronged approach to developing and introducing new mobile banking features features.

The first of these is consumer-responsiveness. Citi will add and enhance mobile banking app features based on the volume of customers interacting with something as simple as viewing account balances or paying bills. 

The bank also will add features, such as payment card replacement, that have an "emotional importance" to customers.

"There may be something that is not high volume like replacing a lost or stolen card," she said. "That isn't happening all the time, but if we get it wrong, it's something that people will remember. If we get it right, it's something that people remember as well."

The second prong is repetition in consumer messaging. 

"We have a strong strategy around driving awareness of digital use and engagement," Milligan said. "Whenever we launch a new feature, we're telling customers [before, during and after it launches]. Doing that frequently keeps things top of mind with people."

As far as general mobile banking habits from consumers across the nation, Milligan highlighted three trends from the survey.

Firstly, survey respondents believed that they benefited from the convenience offered by mobile banking.

On average, respondents estimated that they save approximately 45 minutes a month because mobile banking enables them to check their finances while on the couch (75 percent), in bed (47 percent) or at their desk at work (36 percent).

(Among millennials who took the survey, 19 percent said they even used mobile banking while on a date.)

Secondly, consumers' trust in financial institutions remains high, which is a recurring theme in similar surveys.

The Citi survey found that 87 percent of respondents would trust a traditional retail bank over a nontraditional banking services provider to handle their financial information. 

Milligan said this is something that the banking industry should emphasize to a greater degree as fintechs increase the pressure on traditional FIs with their offerings via digital channels.

"I think [trust is] an advantage for traditional banks as we keep pace and continue to evolve with new technology to help customers solve their problems," she said. 

Finally, Milligan highlighted that mobile banking users are more confident about their finances because they can access their information quickly via mobile.

Some 91 percent of respondents believed they have experienced positive outcomes that include greater awareness of their financial situation (82 percent); fewer concerns about managing finances (41 percent); and a better understanding of the services their bank offers (58 percent).

Milligan said that Citi's efforts continue to revolve around giving customers good vibes about mobile banking — particular as younger consumers enter the financial mainstream. 

Innovation will be the key to success, she said. 

"Innovation is critically important. There is a baseline expectation in trying to align how innovation continues to evolve so that the mobile app stays a part of [a customer's life].

"We need to live and breathe banking so that our customers don't have to. They should be able to feel comfortable to bank when they need to and bank when they want to."

Topics: ATM & Mobile Banking, Bank / Credit Union, Omnichannel Banking, Trends / Statistics

Will Hernandez

Will Hernandez has 14 years of experience ranging from newspapers to wire services and trade publications. Before becoming Editor of, he spent two years as the content manager for, a leading payments industry news aggregator and information hub published by Mercator Advisory Group. Will spent four years covering the payments industry as an associate editor for multiple publications in SourceMedia's Payments Group based in Chicago.

View Will Hernandez's profile on LinkedIn

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