The Commonwealth Bank has invested heavily in technology over the last few years, and that was evident again today when it officially launched its new MyWealth platform for self-managed investors. Yet it's hard to avoid the conclusion that despite all the time and money, when it comes to mobile technology, the strategy still needs some refinement.
MyWealth, which launched today, is essentially a way of aggregating any existing bank and investment accounts you have with Commonwealth Bank in a platform that also includes news and discussion forums. It's accessible through any browser, but there's no sign of any apps — an odd strategy in 2013.
The bank has previously released platform-specific apps for investment (such as its CommSec app), but the experience has clearly been a mixed one. As I write this, the download page includes a note suggesting customers who have had issues with the app try removing and reinstalling it. That doesn't entirely inspire confidence, especially when the app hasn't been updated since August 2012.
The biggest evidence of the Commonwealth Bank's wobbliness when it comes to mobile strategy has clearly been its Kaching app. The original version was iOS-only, with the story being that the Android release had been delayed to ensure it looked native to the platform. Yet when the first release for Android eventually appeared, it was a straight clone of the iOS app. Commonwealth officials argued that was deliberate, but eventually recognised that Android users don't want an iOS interface and updated the app. None of this exactly inspires confidence either.
Perhaps that explains why there are no mobile apps for now. When the question was asked at the launch event today, Lisa Frazier , chief innovation officer for the bank's equities and margin lending division, made it clear it wasn't particularly on the radar:
There are no apps at this point. That's something we'll be discussing with customers. We have built it in such a way that we can roll out apps this year if we need. What's important to us is to understand what features they want in a moble device versus a tablet.
That's reasonable enough, but slightly odd given how protracted the development process was. The project has run for two years, and included nine months of in-depth customer research and repeated iterations of test builds. I find it slightly odd that no-one bought up the topic of mobile devices during that time.
"There is a material white space that is not serving the needs of self-directed investors in Australia," the bank's Stephen Karpin commented at the launch. There's also a material white space when it comes to the mobile versions. Let's see how long it takes to get filled.
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