Back in May last year, I complained about HSBC and its apparent lack of a mobile strategy. My complaints were purely selfish, because I wanted to be able to bank on my iPhone, and couldn’t find a way to do it.
As an HSBC customer, I was jealous that other banks were offering something I couldn’t use.
Well, last week, HSBC released their iPhone app to customers of its direct banking unit First Direct. It is an excellent first step.
The App itself has been getting pretty good reviews on the App Store. Oh, there are a few people who don’t see the point and say so (“The website does more, why bother?”), but generally, everyone seems really pleased. When I checked a minute ago, it had a 4.5 star rating.
I think HSBC have done something that should make them pleased, though. By creating their own application, instead of going the generic route with the same vendor as everyone else has done, HSBC have created a space for themselves to iterate and innovate.
If they’re serious about mobile, that’s going to be a pretty big advantage they have over everyone else.
First Direct say in their press release that:
“…plans for the next generation of mobile banking applications already afoot. In a post on "talking point", first direct's customer forum, the bank… plans to collect online feedback in order to understand which new features are most in demand”
Now, it may not quite be customer co-creation, but this is rather more than anyone else is doing, frankly. And, by owning their mobile technology, First Direct are in a position to actually do something when customers make a suggestion.
The interesting thing to watch unfold in the coming months will be whether the bank pushes its platform advantage in mobile. It will be quite obvious and transparent if they’re doing so: the app will update regularly in the AppStore and we’ll all see every time it does.
Good on them.
There’s another morsel in the press release too:
"We chose to go with the iPhone first because that's where our customers are. Over the last 12 months, the iPhone has grown to become the 6th largest source of visitors to our website and whilst Android is growing rapidly, it's nowhere near the iPhone just yet."
Why is that interesting?
The most recent data I can find on iPhone demographics suggests that owners are richer and older than those on other handsets. It is pretty well accepted there are more Androids selling than iPhones now. And in terms of overall handsets in use, my understanding is they’re neck and neck.
Conclusion? First Direct must be doing more stuff right than just releasing a halfway decent mobile app if it is seeing its online demographic skewing in this interesting way.
Anyway I instantly tried the new First Direct app with my HSBC accounts, hoping it would work. It didn't. I'm guessing it will soon though: there were 303 reviews on App Store this morning: a sign that people want the thing and are passionate about it. I can't imagine the bank will ignore this early success for the rest of its customers.