As I See It

B is for Mobile as banking shifts online

Terry portrait with tieWith a touch of irony that could not have been intended, Clydesdale Bank has unveiled a modern digital banking service just as Royal Bank of Scotland admits problems bringing an old name back to the high street.

The rebirth of Williams & Glyn will be delayed beyond the end of next year because of ‘complexities’ in carving out 300 branches, a process that involves 70,000 actions and has already cost RBS £1.5 billion.

Some may be wondering if it is really worth it and whether RBS would be better off investing the time and money in shoring up its core banking operations which are clearly still fragile on the evidence of its latest quarterly figures.

In the meantime, and while W&G is being recreated around a somewhat quaint branch network, CYBG, the quoted entity for Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank, is launching ‘B’ next week with the smartphone user clearly in its sights.

The bank tells us that B is the culmination of two years of research and that it is in tune with modern lifestyles.

As such, it arguably represents one of boldest moves yet by the bank to be directly relevant to the customer. That inevitably points to the mobile phone, and to an acceleration in branch closures.

According to the banking association, the BBA, banking by smartphone and tablet has become the most important means by which customers manage their finances, as mobile banking overtakes branches and the internet (by which it probably means ‘desktop’) as the most popular way to bank.

New research for the BBA shows that customers used mobile devices to check their current accounts 895 million times in 2015, against 427 million branch interactions. By 2020 it forecasts that customers will use their mobile device to manage their current account 2.3 billion times – more than internet, branch and telephone banking put together.

A joint report by the BBA and EY revealed that UK customers downloaded banking apps 22.9 million times by the end of March this year – a rise of 8.2 million in one year.

Customers moved £2.9 billion a week using banking apps in 2015 – up from £2 billion in 2014 when the number of transactions in branches fell by 6%.

With this sort of evidence, the shift from branches to online – and mainly mobile – banking is not only undeniable, it is inevitable.

The technology that has been applied by CYBG will speed up transactions, a key attraction for a young generation generally assumed to have a short attention span. If it also makes the process simple to use it will prove a hit with a wider demographic.

The choice of B as a name is a little less convincing. The marketing folk at Clydesdale and Yorkshire are clearly fond of abbreviations, and just as CYBG – the quoted entity – apparently doesn’t stand for Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank Group, they will probably tell us that B is not for Bank (and certainly not ‘Branch’).

A little more of a worry is that, like companies such as Next (or the newspaper ‘i’), it won’t be easy to find via search engines. Google ‘B’ and you get 10.25 billion results (at least). And for a internet-focused initiative that makes it an odd choice.



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