Mobile moves

Michelle Stevens talks to Grant Bourbousson, the digital and marketing director at Tesco Bank, about the FI’s recent mobile launches and the way it approaches its digital strategy

MS: How long have you been in your current role and what have been the highlights thus far?

GB: I have been the digital and marketing director at Tesco Bank since the end of last summer, and prior to that I was the bank’s digital director. I previously spent some time at RBS in a number of senior roles, looking after a variety of their direct businesses. Before that I worked in retail, and many years ago I started life in advertising. Some of the most exciting things that I’ve been involved with in my career have been at Tesco, and this is without doubt the most customer focused business that I have worked for. Our recent release of Balance Peek for the Apple Watch was a particularly great example of where we leapt on an immediate opportunity that presented itself. It has been exceptionally well received by our customers so far, and shows that when you are a very customer orientated organisation you can move quickly to meet demand.

MS: You mentioned the roll-out on the Apple Watch there. The Balance Peek function came out on your mobile app in February, and in April you upgraded it to support the Apple Watch as well. Could you explain Tesco Bank’s thinking behind both of those launches?
GB: When we initially launched mobile banking we really set out to provide a service that would set a new benchmark, certainly within the UK. And when we launched the app originally, in the middle of last year, the uptake exceeded our expectations. We went with a fairly rich app to start with, knowing that we would follow with additional services that would be informed by customer usage, and one of the things that we learnt very quickly with the mobile app was that in excess of 30 per cent of all customers were only actually looking to get access to their balance on one or more of their accounts. So it made sense for us to make it easier for customers to get access to that primary service as quickly as possible, hence the reason we then come up with Balance Peek. And because we build all our services in-house and we’re not dependent on any third parties, when Apple announced it was launching its smartwatch, we were then very quickly able to release the same set of services on that new device.

MS: You have said that the approach Tesco Bank takes to mobile differs from other FS businesses…
GB: We made the decision that we would build the mobile app service in-house, have our own development and customer experience teams in-house, and have our lab testing facility in-house. Why did we take that decision? Because we felt it was strategically important to long-term investment in the bank and it would over time become the primary service to customers. For those reasons alone it should be a service that you build and create in-house, and reduce your dependency on third party vendors. It also means that we can move more quickly, at the pace we want to set, and release our features in whatever order that we want, when we feel it’s the right thing to do for our customers.

MS: As well as looking at customer usage, do you also take direct feedback from customers when you are thinking of developing or upgrading a new project?
GB: We work on quite an agile basis and our customers really do feature in our designs. They inform the early phases of the design process, the prototyping, and are involved in evaluating the phased development programme that we put any new project through. It means that at the point we put something live it absolutely meets expectations, because customers have shaped the outcome. We don’t stop there either – once products and services are live, we then have a continual testing programme with our customers that allows us to constantly evolve services. The biggest and best facility that we have is our lab facility up here in Edinburgh. That is where customers come in to interrogate the design of a new product or service, and are therefore directly contributing towards the development of it. It’s a very progressive way of approaching the design and development of any product or service.

MS: In terms of technology, what roll-outs do you have planned for the next 12 months?
GB: We have got lots planned, but I can’t divulge too much of it to you as that would ruin the excitement! As you would expect, we have got a lot more coming on the app side of things, as well as evolving services on the web side of our business. This continual journey of optimising all of our services to customers on an ongoing basis is really the heartbeat of a successful digital business at the end of the day.

MS: And are you signing up to Paym this year?
GB: We do have plans to go into it, but we will do so when we feel it’s the right time for our customers.

MS: The latest Current Account Switch Service figures showed that Tesco Bank was one of the few banks to report a net gain. You only launched your current account in 2014, so it seems that all is going well on that front?
GB: We are really pleased with the start that we have made on our current account. It’s another good example of when you understand your customers well, and set about designing a product and the supporting services that meets their needs.

MS: What do you think are the biggest opportunities and challenges for Tesco Bank at the moment?
GB: I think maintaining our current momentum around improvements to our digital services in their many forms is absolutely key, and is an ongoing opportunity for us to fulfill. But each time we release a new digital service to customers we raise their expectation of us, and keeping apace of that is one of the biggest challenges.

MS: Do you think that the general environment at the moment in the banking industry – bearing in mind the way customers are moving so quickly to digital – is advantageous for the newer, challenger banks?

GB: It’s difficult for me to comment on the other challenger banks, as you refer to them, as I can only comment on what we’re doing. Our customer behaviour is very concentrated, and the vast majority of it is online. We’ve set up a bank to meet the needs of Tesco customers, and we focus on delivering against that expectation. We are very confident that is where our success will be drawn from, so we worry less about what the other challengers are doing at any point in time.

MS: Would you say that the future of retail banking will be more focused on mobile, online, physical branches or a mixture of all three?
GB: I think you have to be led by your customers in that respect. Omnichannel is a term I’m not a massive fan of, but I think I would frame it around being clear on how your customers want to be served in the channel of their choice, and meeting those expectations. The most important thing is that no matter what the banking channel is, you have to do the very best you can within that channel. But it’s also about consistency. So if we improve for example, a mobile channel, at the same time we’ll improve that service within the telephony channel. We are always driving out consistent improvement across the board, rather than letting one channel lag behind another.

MS: What is your prediction in terms of banking trends that will emerge from this year onwards?

GB: I think we will continue to see the rapid growth of mobile, and that more and more services will be adopted within mobile in its many forms – both adaptive, responsive and in apps. I don’t think that’s going to change. I think from a digital marketing perspective, organisations will start to appreciate the value of content as part of their social media and community strategies. As we extend more services into the digital world, by default we are making ourselves more consumable, and meeting those customer expectations is possibly the biggest challenge that any business faces from a digital perspective. Also, if your customers are on social media channels, that is where you need to be.

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