When Scotiabank’s Tangerine division recently announced plans to add voice commands and biometric security to its mobile app, it got me thinking about other milestones in Canadian banking technology.
I was only in first grade when TD Bank launched the Green Machine in 1976. But I remember those automated teller machines (ATMs) magically popping up on street corners overnight.
I also remember when BMO launched Mbanx online banking in 1996. It ran obscure black-and-white TV commercials that featured a Bob Dylan song and posed the question, “Can a bank change?”
Looking back, the most shocking thing isn’t the fact that 1960s icon Dylan allowed a huge corporation (i.e., ‘The Man’) to use his music in a TV ad. It’s that 20 years went by between two watersheds in Canadian banking technology: mass adoption of ATMs and the large-scale rollout of Internet banking.
Today, banks offer mobile apps, engage on social media, chat with customers online in real time and allow us to deposit cheques by simply snapping photos of them. Incredibly, all of these changes have come about in just a few short years, not decades.
These changes in bank technology aren’t just happening faster, they’re also speeding up customer expectations, says Julie Ask, VP and principal analyst for e-business and channel strategy professionals at Forrester Research. She illustrated this by sharing her own childhood story during Tangerine’s announcement event in Toronto.
Ask recalled that when drive-through banking came to her hometown in 1972, “my mother loved this experience because it only took her about 20 minutes to deposit a couple of cheques.”
Fast forward to current consumer patience levels. “If it takes me more than 20 seconds to deposit a cheque today, I get jittery,” said Ask.
On average, she said, today’s customers expect a new banking technology to become an industry-wide standard within just six months (not years) after it’s first introduced.
Where does Tangerine’s announcement fit into this environment of warp-speed customer expectations? By adding biometrics and voice command capabilities to its mobile app, Tangerine is not only boosting the security and convenience of its service; it’s also pushing competing Canadian banks to respond faster to heightened consumer expectations.
This isn’t a slam-dunk, however. A Forrester study released in May gave Canada’s big five banks an overall score of just 66 out of 100 in meeting the mobile needs and expectations of consumers.
“Most (Canadian) banks’ customers cannot report fraud, manage alerts or complete other service activities within mobile banking,” the study stated. “Digital teams at the banks should step up their efforts in these areas.”
By improving mobile service, banks can address the growing demand for omnichannel interactions. But as we’ve previously noted, most banks still aren’t fully providing the personalized, relevant experience that individual customers increasingly want, especially compared to other sectors like retail.
Those “other sectors” are already giving banks a competitive run for their money. In the U.S., players like Walmart, T-Mobile and Google are offering services such as basic chequing accounts, mobile banking apps and reloadable pre-paid credit cards at much lower fees.
So competition is increasing. And customer expectations are evolving at lightning speed. It’s time for Canadian banks to respond, in a very timely manner, to consumer appetites for service that is personal, not just omni-channel.
Eighteen years ago those Mbanx ads asked, “Can a bank change?” Today the only answer is, “It can’t afford not to.”
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