High tide or dead calm- is Silver Surfing on the rise?

Generation Baby Boom's adoption of internet and mobile banking is faster than ever before, according to the latest report by the BBA

Older generation internet banking users are on the rise, according to the latest instalment of the ongoing series ‘The Way We Bank Now’ by the BBA.

I can’t help be sceptical about how reflective the figures really are- after all the older population is growing, therefore an increase in numbers doesn’t necessarily mean an increased rate of adoption, merely a level rise in line with population numbers. Is it just a larger percentage of a proportionately larger number?

But it is great news even if it means only a few more are using it. And even then if only to keep tabs on their accounts, check balances and make the odd transfer or payment. After all, there is little else these apps can be used for. User experience testing by Adaptive Labs on Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, NatWest and Santander mobile apps yielded abysmal results. The lowest scoring app scored just 32% overall, having been judged on the variety of tasks that can be undertaken on the app and how fast and easy it is to use. And it would seem customers only use the apps as they are faster than switching on and then logging in on a computer. HSBC’s internet banking app log-in, dependent on a secure code generated from a secure key means customers are rarely in the same place as both pc and key and therefore it is just too much effort. And yet, the design of these apps is to provide an accessory to online banking, not an alternative. Room for improvement, then.

To take lead from ex-Google user interface lead engineer and current Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer, apps should have a two-tap qualifier- does it take more than two taps, once you’re in the app, to carry out any of the main functions of the app. Security is the tough nut to crack when aiming for seamless user experience and fast access. With increased functionality comes increased security, hence laborious secure code-generating keys and the like.

Those who live in branch-deserted areas of the UK may well have had little choice but to adopt online and mobile banking. Others still may not have a clue how easy the apps are to navigate but do not have a close-by friend or relative who can introduce them to an online banking service to get them started.

New findings show that just over a quarter (26.5%) of customers aged over 70 that are registered to use internet banking are 80+ and that older customers who use mobile and internet banking use it as frequently or only slightly less often than younger generations.

HSBC notes that customers in their 70s log in more frequently than any other age group.

RBS, Barclays and HSBC all report a more than 40% increase in customers over 70 who had downloaded their respective mobile apps. The question is whether these numbers correlate with the numbers that regularly use the app? We all know about downloading an app, or indeed signing up to anything, never to pay a second visit.

Adoption rates need to be taken with a pinch of salt, therefore. That 20% of the 80+ population and more than a third of septuagenarians are using internet banking does not necessarily mean that they have gone beyond downloading the app. They may have been coerced by a younger relative, hell bent on ‘helping out’.

One stand-out statistic is the comparison year-on-year by HSBC, which stated that between 2013 and 2014 there was a 130% increase in account holders aged 70+ who had downloaded the HSBC mobile banking app. In one year I highly doubt there has been a 130% increase in account holders aged 70+. So this would certainly suggest an increased uptake rate.

RBS stated the number of customers in their 70s who have downloaded the RBS mobile banking app grew by 93% in the past year –crucially- more than any other age group.

And Lloyds customers in their 60s and 70s typically log-in 2.1 times a week, compared to 2.7 times a week for those aged between 35 and 49.

So on the whole this is good news that is quite plausible- the banks just need to hurry up and usher in cheque scanning technology and generation Baby Boom will be well and truly booming. And maybe expand the capability of these apps.