Barclays has been ranked highest for its mobile banking app, according to a report from Forrester Research, as standards begin to improve in the UK.
The '2014 UK Mobile Banking Functionality Benchmark' compared mobile offerings from the likes of HSBC, Lloyds, Santander and Nationwide, based on 35 criteria. It found that Barclays now has the most advanced features, overtaking Natwest, which was ranked highest last year.
"Barclays has spent time and money on mobile — and it shows," said one of the author's of the report, Stephen Walker.
For example, Barclays has invested in a cloud storage 'vault', Cloud It, which allows users to upload financial documents by taking a photo, and set reminders for payments.
"Customers can also report a card lost or stolen entirely in-app, access many personalisation features and view simple money management visualisations across smartphones and tablets."
Santander was considered to be close behind with "a dedicated tablet app and mobile website, strong money movement capabilities and helpful in-app alert management", while Lloyds was placed third.
Walker stated that mobile banking has lagged in the UK in the past, but "all that is now changing" as standards improve across the board. This is due to the inclusion of better search capabilities, future-dated payments, and the ability to add a payee in-app.
"It's no secret that UK banks were slow to take mobile banking seriously. The iPhone launched in 2007, and it wasn't until 2010 that we had the first mobile banking app from NatWest. Barclays and HSBC, two of the biggest banks in Europe, let alone the UK, didn't release apps until 2012."
He added: "All UK banks now do well where it matters most to customers — across money movement, balance checking and transaction history search. Some of last year's laggards have overtaken last year's leaders, and many UK banks now offer mobile sales functionality — ahead even of their peers internationally."
The research also highlights the need for banks to head-off potential competition from non-traditional financial services firms such as Amazon and Google by developing more personalised mobile services. Banks in other parts of Europe have already begun to adopt this approach, such as Poland's mBank and American Express, which offer location-aware discount services.
The ability to manage funds — already offered by a number of financial tech start-ups — should be integrated into mobile offerings.
Walker said: "Money management should be the starting point for customers when they open up an app on their smartphone or tablet. Rather than just showing a customer her account balance, help her see whether she can afford a Mediterranean beach holiday or a new Samsung Galaxy S5 while still covering all of her bills and expenses for the next three months."
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