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A streamlined approach

WITH MORE than half a billion iPhones in circulation and in excess of 1.5bn apps downloaded from the Apple App Store, there is no denying the interest in this touchscreen interface-based technology. iPads may still be comparatively new, but their popularity has grown drastically over the past two years and enhanced user experience is a key driver of this.

As banks come under pressure to grow revenues and provide better customer service, they are increasingly turning to technology to streamline business processes. iPads, and other similar tablets, have the potential to transform banks’ customer service, business development, research and analytics, and can help them become more collaborative and dynamic in their working practices.

Many banks are running pilots, but aren’t necessarily embracing the full power of this new model just yet. However, momentum is growing: research from Good Technology found that 37% of all iPads in enterprise are used by financial services companies.

Take JPMorgan. It recently distributed iPads free of charge to all associates in its global investment banking division. Bankers have been given access to email, contacts, calendar and attachments via Microsoft Outlook, as well as the ability to annotate confidential documents and make client presentations. They will also be allowed to download applications for personal use.

Tablets are moving users away from the external keyboard to a touch screen interface which, combined with broadband bandwidth, facilitates fast and easy access to various internet sites. But it’s the desire to make analytical information more easily available, at the right time, to help decision-making and provide greater support that is driving tablet use in a commercial environment.

These devices can offer users greater access to information with better graphics and analytics to support decision-making that can be built into a business process workflow. Tablets make data easier to review and digest, and make it easier to drill down into any particular area more quickly. At the same time, that information can be instantly corroborated with external data points.

Retail banks use the iPad in this way, enabling the relationship manager or financial adviser to offer a much better experience with their customers. While some of these services are accessible via the iPhone, they’re more meaningful on the iPad; it feels like you can even touch your money.

In investment banking, some firms are already exploring the notion that iPads could be the new Bloomberg, adding value in areas from foreign exchange trading and risk management to pricing analysis. The iPad, while different from Bloomberg, has a full set of features and rich functionalities that are viewable anywhere at any time, and we have worked with a global investment bank to introduce institutionalised corporate FX trading on the iPad.

Many banks are already embracing the concept of the app store to provide enterprise-wide access to corporate solutions. Fuelled by the success of Apple, several are developing and downloading their own in-house applications, securely encrypted according to the banks’ own regulations and requirements.

Morgan Stanley unveiled an application for the iPhone and the iPad, allowing its clients to access the bank’s research on mobile phones. Credit Suisse followed with its own equity and fixed-income research application, and BNY Mellon has developed its Workbench Mobile a custody application to provide reports and instruction authorisation to institutional clients via the iPad. Software applications can be approved, posted and potentially even monetised on a corporate-wide directory.

The introduction of tablets into a corporate banking environment poses a challenge as it creates another device to control and monitor. It’s true that Microsoft devices are easier to integrate, because banks don’t have to go through the additional Safari browser integration necessary for Apple devices. However, this needn’t be a major issue, given that many banks have already embraced the iPhone. Security of the iPad applications themselves, based on our experiences so far, does not throw up any major challenges. Nor is the cost of introducing tablets to the workplace especially prohibitive.

The main challenge lies in the effort required to support the introduction of these devices into the banking environment. Being able to control the infrastructure, guarantee security, and ensure working environment readiness are among the first steps towards introduction.

The perceived benefits from the increased sales and productivity resulting from improved relationship management, or from the creation of an enhanced user experience, have to be strong enough to absorb these challenges.

Banks shouldn’t introduce iPads for the sake of technology alone. They should do so only if it suits their business processes, operating model and vision of how they want to evolve their business. However, widespread consumer use of iPhones will undoubtedly have a profound impact on the way they expect banks to provide information.

As more and more retail banks embrace mobile banking as a service to customers, tablets offer an enhanced, more personal experience with graphical interfaces and more easily accessible information. As the price of tablets fall, tier one banks have the opportunity to further expand their mobile banking offerings, moving online and mobile banking from mobile devices to tablets.

The banks who have embraced this new model should ensure that they manage the softer side: helping employees and business processes adapt to the change. The question to ask is, ‘What do customers really want?’ Ultimately, they want to make fast decisions in an informed way, in a manner and at a time that suits them.

Tony Virdi is vice president of Cognizant’s banking and financial services practice

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