This article was first published in the Autumn 2014 issue of Finance on Windows
Mobile finance applications are an established part of the consumer banking experience, but meeting the mobility needs of financial advisors and executives has proved a challenge – until now.
“We’re seeing faster growth in demand for mobile in this sector now,” says Colin Kerr, director, Worldwide Financial Services at Microsoft. “It’s led by major transaction banks with large corporate customers, but we’re also seeing demand for enterprise-deployed Windows 8 tablets in areas such as consumer banking and relationship management.”
Increasingly rich consumer mobile experiences have had an undeniable influence on this demand, and on expectations of what business mobility should deliver – wherever we work, we are all consumers after all. “In banking, people want the right functions from their devices that are appropriate for the role and for where they are,” says Adam Gable, product manager for Treasury at Temenos. “In addition, people want the data to be transparent, simplified, easy to use and easy to understand. Data is getting bigger and more complex, and as consumer devices and information have become easier to use, expectations are getting higher in the business world too.”
The commitment to meeting that demand is exemplified by Microsoft partners such as Etronika, Temenos, SunGard and the Accenture-Avanade alliance, which was recently named Microsoft’s mobility partner of the year for the third consecutive year. “Working with an experienced technology partner can enable banks to provide innovative mobile solutions, keep up with trends in customer expectations and develop new product concepts,” says Kęstutis Gardžiulis, CEO of Etronika. “Simply following the latest trends is not enough. Banks need to base their decisions on sound guidance on elements such as the cost of updates, return on investment, ease of acceptance among users and perceived added value.”
While consumer banking apps have reached impressive levels of sophistication, the complex mobile demands of corporate finance have proved more of a challenge. “In the financial market, a tablet really needs to be a fundamental part of the user’s day-to-day work environment,” says Paul Clapis, director of Product Management, IntelliMatch at SunGard. “To enable this financial applications must have the appropriate security and technology infrastructure behind them, and the tablet itself must have the power and capability to become a replacement for the user’s desktop. Currently, some people use a tablet alongside their workstation, so organisations have to maintain those users’ desktops as well as the cost and infrastructure of supporting their tablets. But those tablets are now powerful enough, and have a large enough form factor, to replace the desktops – look at some of the recent advancements with Microsoft Surface, for example. This means that the tablet need no longer be an additional cost on top of the infrastructure, it’s a next-generation replacement for the desktop and you’ll start to see more widespread adoption among financial markets, banks and larger financial institutions.”
That enterprise-level support is now becoming a reality. As an example, Kerr tells how at Sibos 2013 in Dubai, Microsoft executives were able to perform all business functions securely through the conference WiFi using only a Surface Pro 2 as a single device for office and mobile use. “Windows 8 has some key standout capabilities for bank executives and corporate treasurers that other operating systems don’t have,” says Kerr. “First it delivers enterprise-level security using virtual smartcards and the ability to remotely disable a lost or stolen device. Secondly, it makes things actionable: it can connect the functionality of apps directly to the tablet or smartphone, to extend the experience across all your devices. That’s where we’re seeing growing demand. There is huge interest among bankers that by definition are mobile – personal wealth advisors, relationship managers and so on – and among bank staff and executives.”
Examples abound of how the technology is addressing the needs of those users. Etronika’s mobile banking apps use a Windows-based approach to ensure a consistent experience across PC, terminals and mobile channels for consumers and corporate customers. “Our app enables corporate customers to log in using a single username, switch easily between the customers they represent and act on behalf of the selected one,” says Gardžiulis. “It can be configured to permit various functions for different representatives. All sensitive actions are secured with a signature request, and company representatives must confirm their actions according to assigned levels – for example, if a bookkeeper has created a payment, then a CEO must confirm it.”
BT Financial Group Australia (BTFG), the wealth management arm of Westpac, worked with Microsoft to develop a Windows 8 touch-enabled line-of-business app, deployed on different tablet devices to suit the needs of wealth managers and executives. The solution enables financial planners to engage more with customers outside the branch office and to retrieve existing customer data from the BTFG system. “This is a great example of how Windows 8 can enable mobile customer relationship management, especially for wealth managers or relationship bankers with a professional-level tablet – such as Surface Pro 2 or 3 – which can be used as a standalone device,” comments Kerr.
For financial executives, mobility solutions that link to the technologies they trust are providing much more than a convenient way to view information. Temenos is known for its rich product set and open framework, which enables it to develop rich, role-specific functional apps. The company recently launched its Treasury Management Dashboard tablet app which complements Temenos T24 in the back office and Treasury Trader in the front office. It’s a powerful combination, says Gable: “You’ve got a banking system that’s taking complex data from across the bank, and we’ve taken the underlying engine that’s aggregating that data and simplified it by way of a dynamic dashboard. That’s not simply a usable interface – it also creates an immersive experience whereby the user gets accustomed to understanding their data and navigating around it, and as a result they become better able to spot anomalies or opportunities.”
Providing that immersive experience is a journey that’s only just beginning, and Temenos is already working to address further role-specific needs. “We’re exploring ease of use and visualising data, and we’re currently working on a prototype FX Trading app to deliver that from a treasury perspective,” says Gable. “With this we can really see value in leveraging Windows 8 because it’s an extension of the desktop, so it’s got the security that’s needed and we can leverage the touch screen. FX traders do high volumes of trades and they need to record things very quickly, so we’re building something that enables them to see that information easily with a rich user interface.”
Indeed, as the need for 24x7 mobility is fast becoming a critical requirement for finance managers, partners are developing innovative solutions that complement trusted industry technologies. SunGard’s IntelliMatch tablet app enables mobile access to data that would previously have only been possible sitting in front of a workstation. “The IntelliMatch user community includes high-level managers who need to see a summary aggregate dashboard of what’s going on or to approve the work of others,” says Clapis. “Those managers can be very mobile, and enabling a tablet application allows them to see high-level aggregate views, so they can do their workflow approval and drill down into underlying items wherever and whenever they want to. It was important to make it possible for them to see this information and act on it, so travelling wouldn’t become an obstacle to the day-to-day workload.”
The story didn’t end there. SunGard developed the IntelliMatch Cash & Liquidity Monitor component when it observed that this function was becoming an intraday activity as people wanted to check the results of the reconciliation process and its effect on their liquidity positions and cash flows. “It’s very important in terms of compliance because, as organisations manage their funding, there’s a lot of individual payment activity impacting liquidity positions which, if not accurately reported upon, can incur regulatory consequences,” explains Richard Chapman, head of strategy, IntelliMatch at SunGard. “We’re also seeing great interest in the delivery of reconciliation as a service, where processing tasks are executed centrally on behalf of the financial institution’s lines of business and the results distributed to them. The people who run these functions are senior, require immediate notification of operational process status and risk, but increasingly need to be away from their desks. Having tablet-based, real-time 24/7 visibility into the status of service delivery is critical so you can respond quickly to any issues and notify your customer of any delay. With this new technology, you can not only create tangible service quality benefits through real-time tracking of your centralised operations, but you can also provide seamless movement between front office liquidity positions and individual validated cash flows to optimise cash management.”
A key benefit for executives is that the innovative apps being developed to address their specific roles are built on a wealth of experience and established industry technologies. And while we’re only beginning to see the performance and efficiency gains they can deliver, those gains could prove a significant differentiator for financial organisations. One thing is certain: for a whole range of advisory, treasury and executive roles, the future looks mobile.
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