Financial services employees need mobile access

Banks, insurance companies, and brokerages have all been investing heavily in consumer mobile apps for years now. The result: enhanced customer service; bolstered loyalty; innovative services (e.g., mobile remote deposit); improved services for sophisticated users, especially those in more-developed countries; and improved services for unbanked and underbanked households, especially those in less-developed countries.

Why, then, are most financial services institutions hesitant to tout their return on these investments? More importantly, how can they bring a real ROI to their bottom line?

I recommend investing in mobile and tablet-based dashboard versions of the critical business applications that empower financial institution employees to perform key tasks remotely. These apps use secure API tools that provide a variety of data points from many different legacy applications and offer drilldown capability to give decision-makers the ability to make critical, time-sensitive choices on-the-fly.

Imagine how these apps can provide value to:

  • A Wall Street firm’s CEO or Chief Risk Officer who, as she prepares for a meeting with regulators, needs the relevant facts available on her mobile device in real-time or near real-time.
  • A commercial-lending CEO who, while en route to a meeting with his second most important client, needs to approve a credit line extension for his most important client.
  • A top wealth-management producer who, while offsite recommending new investment options to a client, needs to be able to review that client’s portfolio’s performance.
  • An insurance broker who, while meeting with a new prospect to discuss a home/auto policy, needs to be able to provide rate information in real-time and begin the prospect’s onboarding process.

Still, while there are many options for deploying mobile technology, there are likewise many questions that you should ask your vendor when seeking mobile access to their legacy applications, including:

  • Do they offer a mobile version of their solution, or have they made APIs available that would allow you to build your own?
  • Do they really understand how to design and build mobile applications, or is this something that they are just starting to invest in? 
  • Do they understand the unique security requirements for accessing data through a mobile device? 
  • Can they segregate sensitive client data so that only authorized users can view it?

Most legacy vendor applications were designed for an era when employees accessed information within the financial institution’s four walls. Back then, remote accessibility wasn’t an option.

But today’s vendor applications need to be designed differently. In order to maximize productivity gains, they must be designed to meet the high standards of convenience and ease-of-use expected by the employee/agent population. They must possess a “wow” factor, especially if they’re to be presented to clients.

Achieving all of this may be less complicated for smaller financial services institutions willing to rely on a sole vendor to bring their legacy applications into the mobile era.

But achieving all of this may be more complicated for larger financial services institutions. They tend to operate in a ­best-of-breed environment, maintain multiple vendor solutions and home-grown systems, and employ corporate superstars whose specific demands must be met.

That makes the build-out of their mobile applications a herculean task, as they have to rely on APIs to integrate legacy applications with mobile devices, give those devices access to important and sensitive customer and product data, and properly secure and manage all the integration points properly. If they don’t -- if the integration points are poorly secured and mismanaged -- the institution will become vulnerable to unauthorized data access, something that no amount of improved employee efficiency and enhanced bottom lines can mitigate.

Financial services institutions can bring a real ROI to their bottom line by taking advantage of today’s mobile and tablet-based dashboard applications, but the transition is not to be taken lightly. Bringing legacy applications into the mobile era is a challenge for even the most experienced vendors, as each financial institution’s information technology has its own distinct character, fraught with unique obstacles and peculiarities that must be accounted for in order to keep security uncompromised. Those institutions that ask the questions above, however, will give their foray into mobile its best chance for success, and with that success will come an enhanced employee efficiency that the C-suite will soon wonder how they ever did without.

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