Five Ways Banks Screw Up Their Mobile Apps

Five Ways Banks Screw Up Their Mobile Apps

Australia’s major banks all agree that mobile phones and tablets will account for an ever-increasing share of customer activity. Given that, why do they continue to make such a dog’s breakfast of actually developing decent apps?

In the past month or so, I’ve been to app launches for Commonwealth Bank, Westpac and NAB. (An invite from ANZ surely can’t be far away.) At every single event, the message has been the same: a huge percentage of customers access online banking services using their phones. At Westpac, for instance, mobiles account for one-third of online access, and those numbers are continuing to grow.

In those circumstances, it makes sense that banks are paying increasing attention to building mobile-friendly sites and platform-specific apps to access online banking services. It’s often said around here that rather than wasting time on individual apps for iOS and Android and all the rest, banks would be better off building good mobile sites that would work on multiple platforms. For their part, the banks argue that customers prefer the app experience. At NAB, 80 per cent of mobile access is through its native apps for iOS and Android.

That’s all well and good, but I’m finding there’s an increasing gap between the “mobile is the future” mantra and the stupid design decisions evident in many of these apps. Here are five that stick out for me.

5. Apps that do less than their predecessors

recently-launched iPad app

4. Apps that are little more than a browser shell

first Android apps

3. Apps that don’t look like they’re built for the platform

pledgedexact opposite had happened

2. Botched NFC plans

access the relevant security features

1. Security systems that make life stupidly hard

The Commonwealth doesn’t impose the same restriction as far as I know, perhaps because it imposes two-factor authentication on many activities such as money transfers which makes the passcode on its own less useful. So clearly it’s possible to combine convenience and a reasonable level of security. Owning both a tablet and a phone is hardly an uncommon scenario, so NAB’s approach comes across as badly-implemented.

Where could your bank do better with its mobile apps? What do you like about what it offers now? Tell us in the comments.


  • ANZ is certainly guilty of number 4, but having said that, I find their mobile site very quick and easy to use. In fact, I often find it quicker to use my mobile to pay some bills or transfer some funds than to perform the same tasks in the full browser version.

    • I’ve found the same actually. I have no interest in the NFC additions, but the Katching app at least last I checked was substantially better in its design.

  • ANZ goMoney on the iphone is a great app. Much better and more convenient that using the mobile site or the desktop site.
    Westpac/stgeorge/banksa have THE worst apps i have ever used.

  • ANZ goMoney on iPhone is one of the most practical apps I have come across. Quick, easy to use, a lot of functionality and plus its a native app. Send to mobile number is one of the quickest ways to transfer funds to another ANZ account holder.
    4 digit passcode, well thats the number digits our ATM cards use too, so I wouldn’t consider it a biggie. For me its a plus as it is easy to remember as I make it the same as my ATM card pin.
    I have used ANZ goMoney all across the world, and never once have I had an issue with it.

  • I use the nab one on my Iphone and dont mind the 4 digit passcode only on one device, as you say it’s less secure so I prefer to use that method only on my phone that is with me 24/7 and sticking to the more traditional long winded approach for my Ipad/laptop etc.

    • Agree completely. I like that one stops working if I register a PIN on another device.. Love the PIN feature – I’ve been with NAB long enough that I remember my customer number, but it’s always such a pita to enter it. The PIN is nice and easy – and I accept the lower security level for highly increased convenience.

  • The frustrating part is knowing how many layers of management, all on 7 or 6 figure salaries, go into thinking about and developing these things. All the different departments, cross organisational strategy teams, marketing and design consultancy contractors, focus group sessions, synergy task forces, staff development retreats, lateral thinking workshops, blah blah blah, and they end up with apps that your average IT undergrad could whip up in a week.

    • I worked at one of the aforementioned banks on their app range for 8 months in the mobile dev team pushing out changes and new functionality, I agree that there is a lot of red tape on innovation, which I (whenever opportunity arose) pressed to change… and in a way it did begin to change.. but I can assure you the security, the data management and quality assurance with versions as far back as iOS3.0 meant things couldn’t just be ‘whipped’ up. I ultimately quit as the work was boring, monotonous, unrewarding and the bank was ultimately planning to outsource everything to India anyway which I didn’t agree with ethically.

  • Just last night I tried to use Commbank’s net bank app, and it wouldn’t let me transfer money to someone not in my payee list. I had to log on through my Android browser to do it. Waste of time.

  • The only thing missing from the iOS commonwealth bank apps is the ability to add a new biller.

    Other than that I think both apps (there is a different layout for the iPad app which is great) are really good.

    I disagree with the mobile shell complaint though. That allows them to update their security instantly. Where at least with the app store (unsure with marketplace) there is a delay with updating the app.

    • I’d advise contacting their team about that kind of an issue, they’d be very appreciative of your feedback and the problem would likely be fixed asap.

  • I find it encouraging that the excellent ANZ goMoney app is notably absent from each of the 5 complaint categories in this article. Indeed, it: is full-featured (5), is native to iOS [and far better than a mere browser shell] (4), looks like it’s native to iOS (3), makes no representations about NFC payments (2) and uses a simple 4-digit PIN for security (1).

    Well done ANZ — just don’t pull a number (5) on us if you update the app.

    • That ANZ app is fantastic. Just wonderfully thought out.
      It’s such a shame that I can’t do banking on my WP7 phone though. Mobile browsing only shows my account balance. I can’t do anything else. There isn’t a dedicated App either. Monday to Friday it’s not so bad for me, because i have my work iphone with me. But on the weekend when I need to transfer some money into my ATM account while i’m out and about I can’t do it.
      Chop chop ANZ – let’s get windows phone banking happening prior to WP8 coming out!!

      • Get a non-niche phone, chumplunt. iOS and Android are the two primary platforms these days. If you’re going to go with a second-tier platform, you should be prepared for second-tier service from the ecosystem, who will always focus on more popular platforms first.

  • I don’t have a problem with just shells around a mobile site (though they have a little bit extra wrapped into it), but mostly because i hate having to manage the tabs in safari, when i access net banking i want to get in quick to xfer money, not screw around in safari.

  • I, too, am an ANZ iPhone app user and find it very functional for the transactions I need to do, REALLY like the transfer to another ANZ account holder via mobile phone. If there is one thing I wish and that’s ANZ developing an iPad app, and allow multiple device registrations since they have different numbers.

  • I have accounts with anz, citi, nab, bankwest and st George. For a number of years I have found st George to offer the best Internet banking – mobile or otherwise. I did notice though on android, both nab and st George bank apps took a long time to load. Not sure if that’s an android issue or not, but I used to use the browser instead as it was faster. Not a problem I’ve found on iPhone.

  • ANZ said on their Twitter that they are releasing Gomoney for Androids this month. About time, cos the Android web app is the worst available, plus it’s not secure. Once you log out you just hit ‘back’ and there are all your balances again!

  • I hated Westpac’s App so much I preferred and chose to used telephone banking each time, but recently – with my new Nexus 7 – I find it doesn’t even run, crashing immediately. I don’t even have the choice of refusing to use that waste of RAM any more!

    Seriously though, you would think with the billions of dollars of profit each of these bankers is making they could hire a few programmers to come up with something usable?

  • Need to sort out the SEVERE lack of online security at the ANZ never mind the app. A keystroker program would RORT them. Seriously have a look. No drop menus, no carrots, just a number and password.

  • Lighten up folks.
    It ain’t easy building anything in such a risk averse and highly regulated industry as banking. Let alone keeping up with pace of change in mobile technology. Do you really think bank employees make these products not-quite-how-you-want-them, just to annoy you?

    Also, isn’t it a little premature to criticise NAB WinPhone 7? It hasn’t even hit the market yet!
    Damned if you do and damned if you don’t in my opinion. It’s been criticised for being ‘little more than a browser shell’… From the screenshots, that seems to be untrue. It looks like you can authenticate with a 4 digit number on the app – which is reason enough to use it, since entering customer number and password is a pain in the nuts.

  • Fair enough.
    So, you’d prefer to login with a customer number and password on the web instead of using 4 digit login?

    It’s also first release on the platform. What is better – something that is somewhat useful right now, or something that is a little bit better in 6 months time?
    If there was nothing released, I suspect people would continue to whinge about no apps for Windows Phone 7.

    I don’t understand what’s so hard about being positive – or at least neutral – for a change. It’s a real shame that the default position is negativity.

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