Nationwide targets wearable banking with smartwatch app launch

Nationwide has launched an Android Wear smartwatch app, becoming the first financial services firm in the UK to provide account information via a wearable device.

The smartwatch works in conjunction with the bank’s Android mobile banking app, allowing customers to view their account balance and set aside small amounts of money using its ‘impulse saver’ feature.

Users can access the app by either speaking directly into the device, or by navigating through the smartwatch menu, while balance notifications can be sent to the watch automatically each morning.

The app is available via the Google Play store, and can be used on devices such as the Motorola 360.

Many analysts predict that the market for wearable devices is set to boom in the coming years, though growth of smart watches is expected to be kick-started by the release of Apple’s offering, expected to go on sale in mid-2015.

“What we saw with the smart watch is that there is a growing number of people that like to receive information on their wrist, and people who use these devices enjoy the convenience of notifications in this way,” said Daryl Wilkinson, Nationwide's group head of digital development.

“The smart watch shows to customers with that appetite that their bank is responding and it is offering the modernity that they look for.”

Although others in the UK, such as Barclaycard, have launched payments wristbands as interest in wearables has grown, this is the first fully-functioning smartwatch app to be developed by a bank.

However there have been similar attempts. British Software firm Intelligent Environments has produced an app for the Pebble device, while others outside of the UK, including Caixa Bank in Spain, have started developing wearable-friendly products.

In addition, other forms of wearable devices have begun to capture the imagination of the financial sector, particularly Google Glass, with Australia’s WestPac one of those focusing on the eyewear.

Wilkinson believes that wearables will play a role as banks seek to provide more personalised services to their customers. This could work in conjunction with proximity systems such as Apple’s iBeacon to target offers to users.

“It is important as an ecosystem that we look at wearables, notifications and commerce together," he said.

"When you walk down the high street, probably within the next two years you will receive notifications either from retailers on the high street and/or your bank, about activities that are available to you in those stores, or surrounding the transaction in your bank account.

“It might be that there is a loyalty discount to be claimed in a coffee shop or a retail store, and with a notifcation received on your wristwatch, and when you accept it you can get balance snapshot on your wristwatch saying that if you make that purchase these are the funds available. It is just about convenience.”

As well as developing a version of the app for the forthcoming Apple Watch launch, Nationwide is also considering adding additional 'actionable' functionality via its app, such as the ability to make mobile payments in future. This would require additional security measures over the current incarnation, which provides 'read-only' services, Wilkinson said.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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