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Bill Bennett


Would you switch bank for a phone app?

Levi Allan demonstrating ASB mobile banking app
Levi Allan demonstrating the ASB mobile banking app

Last week Levi Allen ASB’s digital channel manager demonstrated the latest version of the bank’s mobile app. The newest features allow you to deal with TradeMe directly from your phone, get balances from up to three accounts on the opening screen, manage Kiwisaver accounts and handle Facebook payments.

ASB wants to carve out a reputation as mobile banking leader. The new app – or more accurately apps, there are three – are a slick way of doing banking on the move and pack a lot of functionality – almost as much as you can get from doing internet banking on a device with a larger screen.

ASB has apps for the iPhone and Android. You’d expect that. It also has an app for Windows Phone. That shows commitment, Microsoft’s phone software is still something of a niche – certainly less than 5% of smartphones used in New Zealand.

Each phone’s app is fully native. ASB’s developers didn’t simply write one lot of code then port between operating systems. The Windows Phone version has that swipe left and right to get different screens approach used by all the best apps.

My bank is Westpac. I’m happy with the service and I’m in boots and all with a mortgage account, Kiwisaver and the works. Until recently I used the Westpac Android app – not often admittedly because the desktop browser software offers a better experience. So I’d only use mobile banking in an emergency.

Westpac’s Android app is at least one whole generation behind the ASB app and that’s being generous. However, I’ve recently started using a Nokia Lumia 920, a Windows Phone device. There’s no Westpac app at the moment.

Which brings me to my question: is a first-rate mobile banking app enough of a reason to switch banks? Unpicking all my existing accounts would take a lot of effort – I’ve a long history with my bank and, mobile apps aside, I’m happy with the relationship. Not having a mobile app is a disappointment, but not enough to make me switch.

On the other hand, if something happened that made me want to take another look at where I bank, I’d say the ASB apps would be a drawcard. So the app is a smart move on ASB’s part. All other things being equal, it would be the first bank I’d look to if I was about to switch my accounts.



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