The Promise of Mobile
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The Promise of Mobile

Shawn Rose, Executive Vice President, Chief Digital Officer, Scotiabank

Mobile is the best front door for interacting with customers that we’ve ever had. And as transformative as it’s been so far, mobile is on the cusp of moving to an entirely new level where it is even more seamlessly woven into the lives of our customers.

But first, it’s worth delivering a reminder to all of us who work in the digital realm: banks are still very much bricks and mortar enterprises. Some of our customers absolutely prefer doing their banking across a counter—and they may never change.

People are complex, so we don’t entirely know what the future of retail banking will be—which is why I don’t spend any of my time gaming out scenarios. Instead, what my team and I focus on is ensuring that our core digital technology is performing at a level sufficient to adapt to any circumstance— including one where the vast majority of our customers have moved beyond banking in branches.

Products like credit limit increases are an interesting case study in how quickly people can change long-held habits. Credit limit increases used to be done exclusively in the branch. The second we digitized them, no one raised their credit limit in a branch again.

Sometimes, change is too effective and transactions are too seamless. Take transferring money as an example. Through our mobile app, making a transfer is incredibly quick and transactional—so much so, it became an issue. Customers wondered if the transfer had gone through. Now, one option is to build a step into the process asking them to confirm the transfer. But that adds time to the process. So instead, we built in haptic feedback—a buzz or a ding— to confirm that the transaction was complete. People liked that a lot better.

We know that some customers still actively seek out the retail banking experience. To them, the resistance to change is greater than the draw of the potential positives. But when even a digitally resistant customer has a seamless, near-instantaneous digital banking experience, it’s like a door has opened. And that presents us with the opportunity to redefine the banking experience for them.

On the other side of that door is unexplored territory. To keep track of where we’re at, we’ve set really bold goals for digital adoption and how we’ll measure it. Our five year goal (we’re in year three) is 70 percent adoption. We want to see 50 percent of sales happening digitally, and we want branch-based transactions down to 10 percent.

If our past experience with digital has taught us anything, it’s that the road won’t always be smooth. In an earlier version of our mobile app, we eliminated a feature that we were sure was only of interest to a small segment of customers. Well, those customers made their opinion of the change known very quickly and vocally—and we had to backtrack.

We just don’t accept that kind of give-and-take as a reality in digital, we embrace it. It’s why we build our applications in an environment that allows for agile development, revision and deployment. Early on in our digital transformation, we realized how important that ability would be. So we took steps to bring our front-end and back-end systems together in a new, cloud-based platform. (A platform that, it’s worth noting, lets us develop for iOS and Android simultaneously).

It’s also why we use our own people as beta testers. Four months before we deployed our new app, it was in the hands—and on the mobile devices— of 25,000 Scotia bankers, including thousands of people in the branches and call centres. That accomplished two goals at once. First, it alerted us to any performance issues we’d missed—and there are always those. Second, it turned each one of those people into digital ambassadors. By the time the app was released into the wild, they could easily talk with customers about it.

Our mobile app went live in May. As I write this, its rating is at 4.5 for Android and 4.6 for iOS. So that’s an immediate, tangible sign of success. But what’s really exciting and potentially gratifying is what mobile is on the verge of accomplishing. And that is the transformation of our relationship with customers into one that doesn’t take the place of the retail experience, but rather, transcends it. A relationship that is more responsive, more seamless, and ultimately (and counter intuitively) more human because it’s woven into everything they do.

That’s the true promise of mobile.

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