The Future of Online Banking: When Worlds Collide

In episode three of this multi-part series on the future on online banking, author Tim Bunch explains why and how you need to blend the desktop and mobile experience. In his first installment, Bunch argues that online banking is your biggest and most important branch. His second article outlines the keys to building an online cross-selling strategy.

By Tim Bunch, Web Strategist, Designer and Developer at CapEd FCU

There is little doubt that mobile technology is taking the financial industry by storm. Remote deposit capture, mobile banking apps, and personal financial management tools have converged with mobile devices of all sizes. Amidst all the hype surrounding new (and therefore arguably more exciting) channels, financial marketers have let desktop banking fall by the wayside. To move beyond the buzz and really step into the future, we must start thinking differently. We must merge both channels — traditional desktop banking with mobile — to make gains in financial sustainability, technical efficiency and marketing forte.

Much like the 1933 science fiction novel When Worlds Collide, some people believe that mobile computing will destroy desktop computing on its second pass. While mobile computing is revolutionizing the way we communicate, it will not destroy the desktop. The two will merge together to create a more seamless user experience. We are already in the early stages of this merger. Microsoft, Apple, and Google are making their moves to unify an array of devices that appear to be worlds apart.

Mobile banking is generally thought of as a new channel or product, yet it is actually a reiteration of an old product: online banking. These two worlds have been viewed and treated as separate platforms, but financial marketers would yield the most by combining the best of both to create a unified “product offering of the future.”

So what are the building blocks of the future? There are some notable areas causing a great divide between the two worlds. Let’s explore some of these divides and find solutions to bring the two together. Here are 6 steps you can use to blend your mobile- and desktop worlds.

1. Consolidate Vendors

Third-party vendors often build mobile banking apps for credit unions and community banks, and many typically do an excellent job. However, using two vendors — one for mobile and another for online — creates a massive chasm between what should be a single, unified product. In short, your online banking provider should be your mobile banking provider.If your current online banking vendor doesn’t offer a top-of-class mobile banking solution, you probably have the wrong vendor.

2. Combine Marketing Platforms

Marketing to the users of both channels is often served through separate systems as a result of using separate vendors. Campaigns are created and built in two completely different ways. This results in creating one campaign for desktop visitors and one for mobile visitors. One of them is usually neglected. Treating the two platforms as one will save you time and money, and concentrate a unified marketing message on users vs. frustrating them with multiple (possibly even confusing) marketing campaigns.

3. Make Desktop Banking Multi-Device Compatible

Desktop banking websites are usually unresponsive to mobile devices. Mobile web programming has the power to adapt a website to comfortably fit any size of screen. Applying a mobile-compatible approach to your traditional desktop banking website will eliminate the need for a secondary mobile website. Redundancy will become a thing of the past. And when you add new features or update your code, it will be only need to be written once, and it will be published everywhere it needs to be.

4. Fully Mobilize Desktop Features

Most mobile banking apps and websites are a nothing more than a version of online banking that’s been shrunken and stripped. Take a moment to make a list of things users can’t do via your mobile app or website. Chances are, there is a lot that can’t be done on your mobile app. Take that list and work toward mobilizing 100% of those features.

5. Re-Think Desktop Banking Design

Desktop banking needs to be simplified. In some ways it needs to take a back seat, and let the mobile experience drive the concept. Everyone knows the KISS acronym… yet we tend to accept desktop banking as inherently complicated. This thinking allows financial institutions to tolerate and justify a more complicated user experience than they really should. If you can boil banking down to a mobile experience, why can’t you make the desktop version equally simple? In the web design community, this is called a “mobile first” approach. This technique designs the web for mobile devices first, and desktop second. “Mobile first” helps web designers eliminate clutter, focus on the essentials, and apply the KISS principle.

6. Unify The Visitor Experience

One of the largest discrepancies between the online and mobile worlds is the end-user experience. Mobile users have a completely rewritten, redesigned experience.

Familiarity and consistency helps consumers build trust. By creating similarity and unity across all of your online banking experiences, you are building trust with users. Visitors can know what to expect no matter how they are connected; they appreciate this. If most wired bankers know what the desktop version looks like… how it behaves… and how to get what they want, then why should the mobile experience be any different?

The Bottom Line

Many of financial institutions have already let massive disconnects develop between their online banking products. But just like with driving a car, you don’t want to over-correct or you’ll end up in the ditch. Instead, begin making levelheaded plans now. You must unify the mobile banking world with the desktop banking world. The future of online banking depends on it.

Tim Bunch is a web strategist, designer and developer at CapEd FCU. As a web standards fanatic, he passionately pursues best practices in web design. Tim is also an avid WordPress developer, music maker and coffee drinker. If you’d like Tim to speak at an upcoming event, please connect him on Twitter or Google+.

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This article was originally published on December 4, 2012. All content © 2018 by The Financial Brand and may not be reproduced by any means without permission.


  1. Very good article! Most of the points I fully agree with but for some statements I have different view. For instance, the 3rd point says that desktop banking should be Multi-Device Compatible but Mobile banking should be treated as a different channel. Some banks try to just copy the desktop banking features to mobile banking which is totally wrong approach. People do not turn to their mobile to do complex financial activities rather they do such activities as they do daily like checking account balances, paying bills etc.

    Mobile channel is different, so to say complement channel to online banking. Here you can find some interesting arguments on this point ( and it should contain simple and most used features. Mobile banking solution should be offered as a native app, web browser responsive solution can be acceptable but native app has more advantages.

  2. Tim Bunch says:


    I appreciate your feedback, and I know there are others that think along the same lines as you. I do realize that point 3 may seem odd at first. However, what I have found, is that creating a limited version of the mobile banking experience assumes some things.

    It assumes that mobile users only need to do the tasks you’ve chosen for them.

    It assumes that desktop banking is too complicated to be used in the mobile environment. This needs to be fixed (point 5).

    You may find this recent article from A List Apart to be of interest. ( ) Karen McGrane outlines more details of why these two worlds of desktop and mobile web design need to come together.

  3. Great post Tim. Online, mobile, and tablet might be different user experiences, but majority of content presentation, key messaging, and branding should be consistent, yet highly target based on FI data. Brand capital and consistency in alternative delivery matters more as consumers become less branch centric.

    One technical aspect that should help drive this experience is the use of APIs to connect to third party products (billpay, pfm, RDC, transfer capabilities, etc). Historically, OLB vendors simply single-signed-on to a third party product – and imbedded that as a tab or link from the dashboard. It would not be uncommon to have 3-4+ different company products within one OLB experience. In this model there is limited control over user experience and flow. However, by leveraging API’s for third party connections, OLB and mobile technology vendors can build in these add-on products natively, and control the UX, allowing or a more elegant and consistent customer experience.

  4. Very great article…food for thought.

  5. Ryan Schneider says:

    Tim, great post. No. 3-6 are right on the money. There’s certainly an opportunity for banks to deliver what customers want to be able to do, no matter what device they’re on. Having that ability can be very powerful. We posted on this subject recently

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