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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.

How important is channel integration? Are your mobile banking customers using other channels as well, or solely mobile?

Acharya: We tend to think of our mobile customers as just customers, and our customers use all our channels. Our goal is to make it more convenient for you as our customer to access our services -- whether it is via mobile, online, the ATM or in the branch -- or sometimes you want to call us. What we see is that our customers use multiple channels, and our goal is to create an environment where they can have a seamless experience across those channels.

Chase was one of the first banks to offer mobile remote deposit capture. How has the product grown, and what will be the next big mobile product to hit the market?

Acharya: Since we launched mobile RDC in 2010, the uptake from customers has been phenomenal. I think that's because we solved a basic problem -- it's convenient; you can deposit a check in your pajamas. If you get a check from someone for five grand, you're walking right down to the branch and depositing it. But if you get a $50 check, it sits around for a long time. It's all those little annoying checks that add up, and that's where mobile RDC factors in. That's not to say it's only for small checks; some people do deposit their payroll checks with it.

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.

There are a number of things we continue to look at for new services in mobile. Last year we introduced QuickPay, and we thought that was a great next step for us. We continue to look at how we can leverage various aspects of the mobile device, while at the same time trying to keep it a really simple experience for customers. You don't want to complicate things too much. Sometimes people rush off and implement technology for technology's sake. Those things usually don't end up working too well, and we try to stay away from that.

What would you say to those who won't try mobile banking because of security concerns?

Acharya: Security is super important to us as a bank. We want to make sure our customer information is safe. We want to make sure our customers' information is not accidentally seen by someone else.

We take a lot of precautions across all of our channels. In the mobile space, from Day One, we've been extremely sensitive to make sure our stuff is as secure as can be. We do several security audits to ensure that what we roll out to our customers is as secure as the current environment supports.

Do you have any growth projections for your mobile customer base in the next year?

Acharya: We have a good trajectory. Our growth rates are really strong. I'm sure many years ago when the ATM channel was coming along, someone said, "How many people do we think will use the ATM next year?" At some point, they stopped asking because it became so normal and everyone uses it. To me, at some point with mobile banking, everyone is going to use it. It's going to be a normal way of doing your banking.

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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