Reprinted with permission from

by Marshall Yuan

smartwatchQuick access to financial information right when you need it. That core premise of mobile banking could get a big boost from the emerging wearable tech market in the next few years as more consumers embrace the convenience of at-a-glance notifications and actions.

The overall wearables category is still in its infancy. IDC recently projected a compound annual growth rate of 45.1% over the next five years, to 126.1 million units. Leading the way currently are devices like the new Apple Watch, Motorola’s Moto 360, Samsung’s Gear line and the Pebble Watch.

That’s still a tiny market compared to the ubiquity of smartphones. IDC says that in just the first quarter of this year alone, smartphone vendors shipped 334 million phones.

However, in the same way that the introduction of smartphones paved the way for game changers like Remote Deposit Capture, the new wearable world has the potential to change the way we think about banking on the go. Forward-thinking financial institutions are diving into development for the new platform to discover innovative possibilities for mobile banking in the age of even tinier screens. How should they approach these new engagement experiences?


As Apple says, these devices are perhaps the most personal devices ever made. That means when the bank is tapping you on the shoulder with a message it had better be really important or contextual to what you are already doing. The entire notion of customer contact has to be clearly defined. We cannot clutter the screen with information that isn’t personal and directly relevant to the specific individual. Here are some quick thoughts on the potential as financial institutions size up the smartwatch:

A SMARTWATCH MINDSET: A wristwatch that’s always present on you represents an entirely different kind of interaction that needs to be taken into account. Financial institutions learned similar lessons during the shift from desktop to mobile banking. Not all of the complexity present on the desktop was needed or wanted in the smaller real estate and shorter interactions necessitated by the smartphone. Additionally, entirely new capabilities like geolocation and photo-taking introduced banking features that would not have been considered in the desktop mindset. Financial Institutions considering use cases for the smartwatch should think about what can now be possible with capabilities like bio-sensors, geolocation and gestures. The biggest takeaway? The smartwatch experience should not just be a shrunken smartphone experience.

BANKING AT A GLANCE: A smart watch experience needs to be a glance away; users will not appreciate wearing out their deltoids as they muddle through complex feature interactions. This makes the need for relevant delivery of quick-hit features via ‘push’ notifications essential. Why log in to view a balance when it can be delivered when you need it? Why search through what bills to pay when you can be reminded? Already, according to Javelin, 40% of banking customers are receiving any kind of financial alert from their institutions. The wearable experience challenges us to consider what other essential financial messages should be made available outside of the traditional login experience.

DEEPER DATA UNDERSTANDING: Ultimately, the wearable experience is a challenge to financial institutions to improve the application of data analytics to their user’s benefit — the watch is only as useful as what gets sent to it, after all. Creating a quick-hit contextual experience requires deep understanding of what matters to the customer, how they want to be messaged and what they can do with the information presented. In 2014, when Facebook released its Year in Review feature, while some users were delighted by the memories shown in an automatically generated video that simply strung together their photos, others were horrified to see images reminding them of exes or personal tragedies. Getting any aspect of a predicted experience wrong will result at best in annoyance and at worst, a breach of trust.

NEW SECURITY USE CASES: Apple CEO Tim Cook, among others, has publicly mused about the potential for these devices to replace keys to open car doors or gain access to hotel rooms. In the financial industry, wearable technology could become a convenient but secure way to access an individual’s finances. This would be a significant competitive differentiator for organizations that are early adopters.

The bottom line: Smartwatch banking is not just about cool new hardware. It is just as much about the services that we will need to develop to deliver experiences that delight customers and an impact on their entire banking lives.

Have you started thinking about how to deliver a smartwatch banking experience? If so, what made you start considering it? If not, what would convince you to start?

Marshall Yuan is a senior product manager at Digital Insight Labs where he has been leading experimentation in new solutions to help financial institutions engage and delight their end users.

Additionally, Marshall previously served as product manager for Digital Insight’s Android application and personal finance management products. Prior to Digital Insight, Marshall was a product manager and interaction designer at Intuit, Inc.  He has a bachelor of electrical engineering degree and a masters degree in management science and engineering from Stanford University.