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Shaping the future of finance

Mobile, tablet, digital, wearable … what’s next?

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Everyone’s getting excited about wearable banking.  I’m often asked about it, and also see many examples appearing around such themes.

The first was Banco Sabadell offering a Google Glass banking app a year ago.  In response, one of Sabadell’s Spanish bank competitors, Caixa, has gone a step further and launched both Glass and Watch apps .  In fact CaixaBank went a step further and launched a FinApps Party, a competition to find the best wearable apps in the world.  This year Garcon! won, a wearable app allowing streamlined checkout, multi-factor authentication, tagging, transaction history and purchase voiding.

PayPal is here with Android Wear ...

... and, not to be outdone, there are banks such as Heritage in Australia, who launched a wearable banking app stitched into a suit.

So when I got a ping saying that the first UK bank to launch a wearable app is the Nationwide (not really a bank), I yawned a little bit.   It’s part of the issue of always looking into the future as, when it arrives, it’s already old news for me.

But then I also have a different take on wearables, as I’m not excited about wearable computing at all.  In fact, the commentary on the announcement of Nationwide’s wearable app says a lot:

In all honesty, this is just a gimmick … the sort of people who like to blow money on a smartwatch/new phone combo are probably not the sort of people who will be constantly checking their balance.

I've got the NW phone app. Since I'd need the phone, to use the watch, to essentially give me the same thing, what's the point? I suppose if you feel the compulsion to behave like a complete nerd, its fine. Otherwise nonsense.

This is the IT equivalent of your Uncle dancing at a wedding.

Even better will be the Wonga App: has a ticker showing how much interest you are racking up per second. If you fall behind on payments, the app locks your phone and the watch displays only a map and routes to nearest payment location.

But perhaps these three comments tell it all:

They should rather focus on developing the existing app's functionality, which is very limited by comparison with other banks' apps. You cannot make a payment to a new beneficiary from the Android app.

If the watch app is anything like the phone app it will be terrible.

Wow, Nationwide far ahead of the market - and, I am afraid, also of the customer, that would be me.

This is the heart of the debate for me: what’s the focus?

At the heart of our world right now is technology, and a lot of banks see the technology as a differentiator.  So they want to be first to rollout the sexy new thing.  Yesterday, it was the app, today it’s the wearable app and tomorrow it’s the embedded app in your internet of everything.  So what?  An app’s just an app.  Appy days.  It’s the wrong focus.

The focus needs to be on the process of ubiquitous connectivity.

When everything is connected non-stop, and it pretty much is there today, what will be the process for commerce?  How will the everything connected world work?  What will buy from what, rather than who from whom?  Where will the transactions take place?  Between the refrigerator and the grocery store or between the refrigerator and the app, or both?

This is where my brain has moved: not to the next hot tech but the next hot tech revolution.  The internet of things is where the world changes next, and wearable is just a transient moment in that movement to the internet of things.

In other words, banks can make a momentary headline with a new app, but the bank that really places digital in its heart and mind, through its processes and people, will be the one that wins the next technology game changer.  Not the one that launches a wearable app.

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Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog,, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...

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