Peering into the future of mobile banking

RICHARD MEADOWS
Last updated 05:00 23/07/2014
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BANK ON IT: Banks are pouring millions of dollars into mobile app development, much of which is happening right here in New Zealand.

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As you walk down the street, your augmented reality display pops up with a deal for the nearby pizza parlour, having analysed your spending and identified it as a favourite haunt.

You scroll through your accounts as you order, pay instantly by looking at the bill, and automatically store a photo of the receipt in the cloud.

As you eat, your phone warns you there's only $10 left in your takeaways budget for the month. Later, you will receive an automatic rebate from the pizzeria for your loyalty.

This scenario might sound like science fiction, but it's well on the way to becoming part of everyday life.

Banks are pouring millions of dollars into mobile app development, much of which is happening right here in New Zealand.

Basic features that were revolutionary overseas, like pin number logins, or instant balance checks, were pioneered here.

Now the next wave of innovation is underway. Here's a glimpse of what's coming.

1. Automatic loans

If you have found a sweet new ride at a car dealership and are thinking about finance, just photograph the vehicle identification number with your phone.

You'll get instant information on the car's retail and trade-in value, and be able to apply to your bank for a loan on the spot.

This is one of the innovations developed for America's First Credit Union by Fiserv, a global firm that builds financial services software.

Fiserv bought out local tech company M-Com in 2011, and most of its mobile banking development is done here in New Zealand.

Chief technology officer digital channels Ed Massey, originally from M-Com, says the app has had "exceptional uptake".

The next step in the evolution could be to use a smartphone's GPS and camera to apply for mortgages in the same way.

"Conceptually, yes, I would expect to see this coming out in the future," says Massey.

"If you're a bank, you have the ability to put it all together."

Westpac has already made it possible for customers to get a mortgage pre-approved using only their smartphone, the first bank in Australasia to do so.

2. Customer hotline

If you are scrolling through your account on your phone and see something odd, like a credit card charge from Nigeria, don't panic.

Tap on the payment, and you will immediately be transferred to the relevant division of your bank's call centre.

The operator will already know exactly who you are and what you are calling about. Since you are logged into the app, they can also skip all the time-consuming security checks.

Fiserv is actively working with a US-based customer to roll this feature out.

3. Voice commands

Want to know how much money you spent on groceries over the last six months?

Forget about trawling through pages of bank statements with a highlighter and calculator. Just ask your phone to crunch the numbers for you.

Both US Bank and Wells Fargo are already testing out voice command technology with their employees.

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4. Fingerprint login

Pin numbers are so 2013. Apple's next operating system update for iPhone, iOS 8, will open up its fingerprint technology to external developers.

Fiserv is in the early stages of developing a banking login coded to your unique fingerprint.

Westpac also has its own trials underway, and hopes to be the first bank in the world to roll it out.

5. Easy bill payments

Manually entering payment details for bills can be time-consuming.

Soon you will be able to simply take a photograph of the bill stub, which will save the text and bank number as a new payee with the touch of a button.

This technology is in the early stages in the United States, with one of Fiserv's clients currently using it.

6. Card controls

Another feature in Fiserv's pipeline gives you control of all the cards linked to your bank account on your phone.

You can set all sorts of limits based on spending, geographic range, or even the type of retailers each card can be used at.

Lost cards can also be instantly blocked from all new spending, saving you the hassle of replacing it if turns up the next day.

7. Money insights

Personal finance tools that crunch your spending automatically are almost non-existent in New Zealand, as they require direct bank feeds.

One project under construction in the Fiserv lab analyses your money habits and suggests actions to take, like transferring some money from your savings account if you are close to overdraft.

"We would expect to do something with one of our customers on that in the relatively near future," says Massey.

8. Facebook integration

Want to know exactly how your brother's stag do affected your spending behaviours?

ASB broke new ground two years ago when it introduced the ability to make payments to Facebook friends.

Now a start-up called Moven is offering full Facebook integration for users of its bank-like smartphone service.

Besides being able to send money to friends, you will be able to get real-time spending alerts and map how social events affect your savings stash.

The company says it will launch here in the next six months, making New Zealand one of the first markets outside the United States to access the technology.

9. Cash back offers

America's First Credit Union customers can claim discounts from their favourite retailers, based on their spending patterns.

Offers accepted within the mobile app give them an automatic rebate when they actually spend in the store.

"You don't actually have to go in with your coupon," says Massey. "You just get refunded back, directly to your bank account."

The next step will be augmented reality, whereby you can physically watch deals pop up around you on your device's screen, based on your GPS and spending history.

10. Google Glass

The wearable computer has not made its public debut yet, but this reporter has had a play with one of the models handed out to developers.

Using Fiserv's application you can make payments, flick between accounts, and even photograph receipts and store them in the cloud, with a simple touch of the frame.

Westpac has also got plans for the Glass. Initially users will be able to check their balance, but the bank is working on more functionality.

The Future

PwC partner and digital market leader Paul Brabin has been closely following developments for the last 10 years.

"The first five weren't really revolutionary," he says. "In the last five years, we have seen a rapid change every year."

With a growing generation of "digital natives", customer expectations have changed.

"Generally people are time-poor, and they want to be able to customise the experience," says Brabin.

At the same time, more competition including disruptive start-ups are forcing the industry to stay on its toes.

"It's a lot easier to make different choices about what bank you use, and how you use them," Brabin says.

So how far away are all these nifty new features?

As banks continue to invest big money and resources, the speed of change will only accelerate, says Brabin.

Watch this space - the future will be here sooner than you think.

- Stuff

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