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Sovereign Bank Enters the Mobile Arena

The bank has launched its first mobile app after intensive customer research.

Boston-based Sovereign Bank ($85 billion in total assets), a subsidiary of Santander Holdings USA, this month formally rolled out its first mobile banking app after a lengthy process of research and customer surveys.

Nuno Matos, Sovereign Bank
Nuno Matos, Sovereign Bank

Nuno Matos, managing director of retail banking at Sovereign Bank, says it was important to offer a robust mobile service to customers based on what they wanted out of a mobile app. The app's features include the ability to check account balances and activity including deposits, withdrawals and interest accrued; transfers between accounts; BillPay functions such as scheduling recurring and one-time payments or checking payment status; an ATM/branch locator, and one-touch customer service. It is currently available for Android and Apple devices.

Matos says the bank conducted customer surveys and found that 81% were interested in having access to a mobile banking application. The top two reasons were convenience and feeling connected to their finances.

He further indicated that Sovereign's research found that consumers primarily wanted to use mobile banking to check their balances (as 77% of those surveyed indicated), get directions to branches (65%), log into their accounts (61%), pay bills and transfer money (51%) and deposit checks (5%.)

"Since users of online banking will account for a significant portion of the first adopters, we started with the features most used by our customers," notes Matos. "We found that employing the same credentials and authentication protocol that customers use when logging into online banking, provided peace of mind and ease of use since all the payees, electronic bills, reminders and alerts they set up through online banking carries through to their mobile access.

"It was also important that we leveraged the unique aspects of mobile devices to create a very robust service," he continues. "The geo-location capabilities allow a customer to get step-by-step directions to the nearest branch or ATM, whether traveling by car or on foot. With a single touch, customers can dial our call center for additional assistance. Customers can also view the image of a cleared check simply by turning the device to landscape mode."

The app, which was developed internally, had a soft launch in March and the bank focused on promoting the app internally to employees. This allowed Sovereign to address any minor changes that needed to be made prior to the public launch on May 16, adds Matos.

Matos says now was the right time to launch the app, since consumers are more connected to their mobile devices than ever before.

"Our goal is to anticipate and adapt to changing consumer preferences," he adds. "We expect to make continual improvements and plan to launch the next iteration of our mobile app late this year."

[See Also: ING Direct Canada Looks Forward On Mobile]

Bryan Yurcan is associate editor for Bank Systems and Technology. He has worked in various editorial capacities for newspapers and magazines for the past 8 years. After beginning his career as a municipal and courts reporter for daily newspapers in upstate New York, Bryan has ... View Full Bio

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