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HindustanTimes Tue,21 Oct 2014

Too many banking apps, too few users

Vivina Vishwanathan, Hindustan Times   February 25, 2014
First Published: 15:10 IST(25/2/2014) | Last Updated: 15:12 IST(25/2/2014)

Mobile banking apps are pitched as one of the most convenient channels for banking transactions. But are these really as useful as they are touted to be? And how many people actually use these apps?.

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The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has given approval to 80 banks to start mobile banking services, which includes apps. Of these, 64 have commenced operations. As of October 2013, nearly 30 million people had subscribed to mobile banking services. The number of app users, however, is still small.


For instance, only 0.12 million downloads have happened on Google’s Play Store, according to Kern Communication Pvt Ltd, a user experience research consultancy firm.

Banks, however, are optimistic and are betting on growth in usage. “The (total) transaction value through the app has increased from 50 crore per month to 400 crore per month in the past 18 months,” said Rajiv Anand, president, retail banking, Axis Bank Ltd. Axis Bank has a customer base of 13 million, of which 10% (around 1.3 million) use its banking app.

Other banks, too, have seen more customers moving to the app medium. “We have seen an increase of over 80% in our month-on-month usage, in the past six months. Over 2 million customers used the app in the current financial year,” said Nitin Chugh, head, digital banking, HDFC Bank, which has a customer base of 28.5 million.

Deepak Sharma, executive vice-president, Kotak Mahindra Bank, added: “In less than one year, we have seen 13% of our primary customer base moving to mobile banking.”

WHAT’S ON OFFER

Even though a majority of bank customers still don’t use banking apps, it’s a convenient medium. You can download the app from mobile app stores such as Google’s Play Store, Apple’s App Store, BlackBerry’s App World and Windows’s Phone Apps. Mobile apps are offered on platforms including Java, Symbian, BlackBer ry OS, Windows, Android and Apple iOS.

Then you will have to key in you customer identification number and personal identification to get started. You can do non-financial transactions — such as balance enquiry and cheque book request — as well as financial transactions—such as funds transfer, mobile/directto-home (DTH) recharge and bill payments. There are no extra charges for using the app for any service. They work as an extension of Net banking.

Although a whole list of transactions are possible, the most used services are balance enquiry and funds transfer.

According to Chugh, the top three services on the HDFC Bank app are checking account details, funds transfers and credit card account details and payment. According to Sharma, in addition, ATM or branch locator is another popular service.

But if you thought that banking apps are a rudimentary version of Net banking, you are wrong.
Yes, you can do the usual balance checking and fund transfer, these apps go much further — you can do demat transactions; open fixed deposits and liquidate them; redeem MFs.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK
The biggest reason behind very few banking app users is that the number of smartphone users is only 67 million — less than 6% of the total telephone subscriber base of 900 million as of December 2013, according to latest data from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.

The penetration of smartphone has a direct impact on app usage.

Another reason for few banking app users is poor user experience after download.

Then there is the question of easy access: it’s easy enough to download the app and use it, but getting an okay from the bank may not be.

“Public sector banks and old private banks make it very difficult for users to access mobile banking the first time — they either require users to fill applications at a bank branch and then wait for some days to receive the m-PIN; some require a visit to the ATM to register for mobile banking.

Such procedures in the name of security scare away mobile banking customers,” said Ripul Kumar, founder and chief research officer, Kern Communications. Some new private banks, however, have made the process easy by allowing customers to login using their Net banking credentials or debit card information, added Kumar.

OUR TAKE

Mobile banking apps of Axis Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank and HDFC Bank are the most user-friendly apps right now, according to a report by Kern Communications based on data collected from 26 banks. SBI’s app is the most downloaded.

Though nearly all banks are building mobile banking apps for their customers, and upgrading them too, the adoption rate is still very low.

For smartphone users, banking apps are a must-have. They save time and are convenient. Once downloaded, they are easy to use considering that banks have made these applications compliant with most of the latest operating systems.

On the security front, no information is stored on your phone.

So even if your phone is lost or stolen, your account details won’t be compromised. The security systems used for apps is the same as that for Net banking.

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