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The Secrets to Chase's Mobile Success: Exclusive Q&A With SVP Ravi Acharya

Chase's Ravi Acharya, SVP and head of product management for online, mobile and social, discusses the evolution of the bank's mobile banking offerings, lessons learned and what the future holds for the channel.

Ravi Acharya
Ravi Acharya, Chase
Mobile banking has exploded since it was first introduced. In less than 10 years, the channel has evolved from offering basic SMS alerts to providing the rich, fully functional banking experience available on tablets today (and back to text alerts again). JPMorgan Chase ($2.3 trillion in assets) has been at the front of the mobile space from the beginning. Bank Systems Technology associate editor Bryan Yurcan recently spoke with Ravi Acharya, SVP and head of product management for online, mobile and social at Chase, the New York-based company's retail banking arm, about the evolution of the bank's mobile offerings, lessons learned and what the future holds for the channel.

Chase has been involved in mobile banking since the channel's early stages. What are some of the lessons you've learned?

Acharya: We launched mobile back in 2006. At that time there were a lot of questions as to what we should launch with: Should we do mobile web, should we do downloadable apps — which didn't really work the way they work right now — or should we do text banking? The philosophy at Chase has been: Let's do things in a simple fashion so that lots of our customers can use it, and let's walk before we run.

In terms of lessons learned, we have learned that people love to use mobile devices and the convenience they offer. Look at the evolution of the features and products we try to provide to our users — they speak more to the increasingly mobile lifestyle that people have. One example is two-way text alerts: You can be on the go, you get a text alert saying your balance is low and asking if you want to transfer funds, and all you have to do is text back to transfer the funds.

What do Chase customers want when it comes to mobile banking, and what mobile services/products do they use most?

Acharya: The key thing that our users like is being able to quickly check their balances — they like to know, "How much money do I have in my checking account? How much money do I owe on my credit card?" and so on. They love to be able to transfer money easily between two accounts. They love our quick deposit function. Most recently, our QuickPay function [Chase's P2P payment service] has become popular. All you have to do is enter your friend's email address or cell phone number, the amount of money and it gets sent. When you distill it down, the features people love are all about convenience, easy access and speed.

What are the demographics of Chase's mobile users?

Acharya: We have close to 15 million mobile banking users; it is a significant portion of our [customer] population. The really surprising thing is how quickly it has grown. The adoption curve has grown so much steeper in such a short amount of time. In terms of demographics, it is truly across the spectrum. A few years ago, when we had just the basic text banking functionality, it tended to skew younger. Now it cuts across the spectrum.

As far as what phones they use, there are lots of Android users and lots of iPhone users, and the growth in both of those has been really staggering. They're both growing really fast — I think they are very close. We also have a lot of people who are not using either of those two devices, but using the mobile web browsers on BlackBerrys or other devices.

What are the unique challenges to creating mobile banking apps for a tablet versus a smartphone? Are there certain features that lend themselves better to the tablet format?

The Rise of Tablet BankingBS&T's April digital issue breaks down what it takes to create a superior tablet banking experience and highlights some of the industry's top iPad apps.

Acharya: The way we look at the iPad or any tablet is the whole concept of "lean forward" versus "lean back." Phones are "lean forward" devices that are meant for quick actions and convenience. You make a transaction and log out. We find using iPads to be more of a "leaning back" experience — you are watching TV, sitting on your couch and you have your tablet with you.

So the features we are introducing for the tablet tend to be different in that they are more content-rich. Our J.P. Morgan iPad app [for high-net-worth clients of the company's investment banking, private banking and wealth management businesses], for example, has more information. We have videos there and news articles, and we are looking at putting in content from analysts. Our tablet apps are not just for the iPad, though -- we were one of the first banks to have an app for the Kindle Fire.

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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