Joined up thinking – why banking shouldn't be multichannel

At the most recent Digital Banking Club, one of the panel members said something about mobile banking that really made me think. As far as I can remember, it went along these lines: "Any one channel is just a small part of the whole ecosystem. Mobile banking isn't just an app on your phone", writes Ellie Chambers

At the most recent Digital Banking Club, one of the panel members said something about mobile banking that really made me think. As far as I can remember, it went along these lines: "Any one channel is just a small part of the whole ecosystem. Mobile banking isn’t just an app on your phone", writes Ellie Chambers

As a banking journalist, I am constantly encountering the words multichannel and omnichannel. Frankly, I’m sick to the back teeth of both of them, especially omnichannel, which bears a distinct resemblance to the word omnishambles.

It’s true that when it comes to how we want to manage our money, more choice can only be a good thing. But as more and more ways of banking spring up, it strikes me that banks shouldn’t be so proud of their "multichannel" credentials.

The thing is, while banks are getting all hot under the collar about wearables, they still haven’t got taken care of the fundamentals on the channels they already have.

If I am trying to do something with my online banking, and get stuck, I can pick up the phone and ask for help. But the person at the end of phone can’t see what I see, so if I’m in the middle of something, we’ll have to start from scratch.

Similarly, at one point I spent several years locked out of a savings account because I couldn’t remember my online credentials and was told on going into branch that the online part of the bank was managed separately and so the branch staff couldn’t help me.

During a recent interview, I tried to take Metrobank’s CEO, Craig Donaldson, to task over the bank’s late entry into the mobile app channel. His reply was that yes, Metrobank had been slow to catch on, but that when their apps came to market, they would be properly integrated.

He said: "What’s happened is a lot of the banks have developed their systems in an ad hoc fashion.

"If you’re with a big bank its digital channel will be managed separately to its telephone channel, which will be managed separately to its internet channel.

"They haven’t built the channels so that they’re consistent. What we’re doing is developing our systems so that they are integrated."

I had to agree with him. The encumbent banks are presiding over fragmented systems and proudly proclaiming themselves multichannel when what they should be doing is promoting consistency and convergence.

Branch staff should be able to help me with my online banking. Someone of the end of the phone should be able to see what I see on my screen. What banks should be striving for is not a broad range of vastly different channels, but a consistent offering where no matter which way I want to bank, the experience is fundamentally the same.

Until they can manage that, banking will never truly be mobile.