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CaixaBank leads the way in mobile banking functionality

Spain's CaixaBank has emerged as the world's top mobile provider, according to Forrester’s Global Mobile Banking Benchmark, while US banks have dropped out of the global top 10

US banks no longer lead the mobile banking arena, Forrester has revealed. Banks in Spain, Australia, Poland, Canada, the UK and Turkey now head the rankings, according to Forrester’s latest Global Mobile Banking Benchmark, which ranked 41 retail banks across the world, including Europe, the US and Asia Pacific.

The evaluation is based on the functionality of the banks' mobile apps, which are reviewed according to seven categories, including range of touchpoints, enrolment and login, account information, transactional functionality, service features, cross-channel guidance, and marketing and sales. 

No US institutions appear in the top 10, with the Bank of America ranking at 13th overall. Rivals in other countries seem to be paving the way for next-generation mobile banking.

These include CaixaBank, Westpac, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Scotiabank, Bank Zachondi WBK, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, mBank and Lloyds Bank.

The 41 banks reviewed scored an average of 61 out of 100. Aurelie L'Hostis, researcher, e-business and channel strategy at Forrester, said that globally, the benchmark revealed “a cluster of banks that lead by continuously iterating”, which implies a “test and learn” process.

L’Hostis said these banks are maintaining their effort to prioritise key mobile initiatives and introduce substantial improvements each year.

The US banks achieved an average score of 66 out of 100, but no large US banks were clearly ahead of the competition, all of them scoring within one point of each other overall.

“Digital teams at large US banks are achieving parity rather than breakthrough,” said L’Hostis.

That was why they slipped out of the top 10 banks, which were more focused on rolling out new functionality, offering a wider range of transactional features, providing better guidance across touchpoints, doing a better job at mobile cross-selling, and promoting additional services.

Making the difference

Forrester’s research highlighted the best practices of mobile banking around the world, mostly related to apps. Just eight months ago, IDC forecast that the number of enterprise applications optimised for mobility would quadruple by 2016, and the firm's latest report revealed that the banking sector is already at the cutting edge of those apps.

Most of the banks surveyed were already offering downloadable apps for at least three operating systems and are launching apps designed specifically for use on tablets, 37 of the 41 banks reviewed offering a downloadable app for at least one type of tablet device.

However, eight of the 41 institutions appeared to have forgotten that many customers still prefer to use the browser on their mobile device rather than download an app. Those banks have largely not adopted a responsive strategy and could be missing the opportunity to provide both a cross-selling and cross-channel platform.

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Forrester also said some banks were not offering any level of text banking, even many customers do not own a smartphone. This restriction makes it impossible for them to access services such as alerts, and to initiate any banking transactions.

Although each bank covered the basics well – including login and security – there was clear room for improvement in offering certain service tools, with gaps identified around fraud reporting tools and helping mobile users to shop for additional products and services. 

“Our clear impression is that once a firm pulls ahead of its peers in a country, competition starts heating up, and the competitors try to catch up and outdo each other by improving their mobile banking services”, said L’Hostis.

“Banks in Poland, such as mBank, routinely look for digital excellence and inspiration outside of financial services, rather than just benchmarking themselves against their competitors. When they match this excellence, this exerts enormous internal and external pressure on other banks to catch up, as both their customers and senior executives start asking why they cannot offer the same quality.”

CaixaBank: the Spanish experience

CaixaBank, which operates under the la Caixa brand in Spain, topped Forrester’s banking benchmark, scoring 86 out of 100 in the evaluation, which covered more than 40 criteria, by excelling at providing both basic and next-generation services.

Gonzalo Cortázar, CEO of CaixaBank, presented CaixaBank's 2015-2018 strategic plan at the annual Morgan Stanley European Financials Conference in London in March 2015. He said the bank had 2.4 million active mobile banking customers, who had made at least one transaction through CaixaBank’s home banking in the past two months.

Cortázar said 24% of the bank’s transactions were already being made from mobile accounts and the mobile platform had become the second most frequent operating channel with customers, behind its Línea Abierta Web.

Benjamí Puigdevall, managing director of CaixaBank’s financial services innovation unit, e-laCaixa, said that by the end of 2015, it will have passed 2 billion mobile banking operations. The firm's mobile banking channel already registers almost four banking operations per minute, he said.

Cortázar emphasised the importance of improving the customer experience, with more than 70 apps offering new services and functionality, such as predictive tools for future spending based on customers' past history and behaviour rather than payments they have set up manually.

CaixaBank was not only the first Spanish bank to release apps for iOS and Android platforms, but also launched CaixaMóvil Store as the first mobile app store to be run by a bank.

“We are working now on mobile-first services, which are initiated from mobiles, as P2P payments or biometrics-based developments,” said Puigdevall. “We have been the first bank in Europe to offer a basic app that allows people to log in by voice command.”

Puigdevall added: “We have already pioneered developments in wearable technology, along with the integration of financial services into smart car systems.”

The arrival of the internet of the things would drive further innovation in financial services, he said.

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