How 2014 has shaped the future of banking in Canada

From creating a better digital experience to innovating with wearables, the last 12 months have shaken up financial services

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future of banking in Canada

I still remember, several years ago, showing my dad how to deposit a cheque in an ATM. Fast-forward to the start of 2014, and ING rolled out its Cheque-In feature, allowing you to take a photo of a cheque with your smartphone or tablet and deposit it directly into your account.

At the start of the year, I looked at how traditional banking services were evolving to entirely new services made possible by mobile platforms.

In January, Deloitte came out with its 2014 Technology Media & Telecommunications (TMT) Predictions report. “All the buzz is about wearables,” said Deloitte’s Duncan Stewart at the time. But banking on a smartwatch?

Stewart predicted wearable tech would find a market within the “mass niche,” where even a minority of a significantly large market is a really big thing — though he was less convinced of the viability of smartwatches.

I was sceptical too. I don’t know many people who wear a watch anymore, so why would they wear a smartwatch?

As the year progressed, we started to hear more about the pervasiveness of mobility, smart cities and the Internet of Everything. Wearable tech, it seems, is just another aspect of the IoE, where pretty much everything will connect to the Internet.

All of this makes bandwidth more critical in the years to come as we enter what Stewart calls “the decade of software, services and content.”

A few months later, IDC reported that Canadian banks were under pressure to innovate as mobile payments and digital wallets start changing the banking game. Consumers want instant gratification. And companies like PayPal, Square and Google are getting in on the action. Kids these days might not have a chequing account, but they probably have an iTunes account.

In the spring, a Diebold survey found that bank customers still can’t do some pretty basic stuff — like see an updated transaction in real time.

And research from CEB TowerGroup suggested retail banks are still struggling to find the right user experience for digital customers — indeed, for 48 per cent of account-switchers, mobile banking services were either important or extremely important in their decision to switch.

We’re already seeing the evolution of the financial services industry: Spanish bank Banco Sabadell released mobile banking software for Google Glass, and U.K.-based Intelligent Environments created an app that allows users to balance their chequing account on a Pebble smartwatch.

As the year came to a close, I had a chance to interview Jeff Marshall, vice-president of the self-service customer experience with Scotiabank, about launching the first wearable banking app in Canada.

Marshall admitted the use cases for wearable banking technology are limited — right now. But Scotiabank wants to stay ahead of the trend, rather than play catch-up. Other Canadian banks are sure to follow.

While the Scotiabank app is limited to checking your account balance on a Samsung Android-based smartwatch (and must be tethered to a Samsung smartphone), it’s a start. And who knows where we’ll be a year from now?

After all, it’s amazing how much can change in a year.

Image courtesy of jscreationzs at

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