Who Will Win the Mobile Banking Revolution?

Today, the value of the brick-and-mortar banking experience is fading quickly and mobile banking transactions are filling the void. But it seems that consumers are not so pleased with most mobile app experiences out in the marketplace, particularly with the big banks.  The basic features of account balances, transfers and mobile check deposits are expected basic functionality, but it’s not enough. Users want value beyond just transactions; customers want enriched interactions to understand what their money can do for them. The key to winning in the mobile banking space is relevance – whoever can make the mobile banking experience the most relevant to a user will win the revolution

What is relevance?

Relevance creates a personalized user experience: know what I want, when I want it, before I ask for it and make me smarter. From smartphones to wearable technology (e.g. Google Glass, smart watches, activity trackers, etc.), personal finance is interwoven into our everyday activities. Between the quantifiable self, need-to-know, and constant connectivity, our desire to be engaged with our money is increasing, changing our behavior and evolving what is expected from banks.

The experience can’t be just ordinary, it has to be extraordinary. If you simply spout numbers and balances, you’re not replacing the personalization that is eliminated when a user chooses mobile banking over their local branch with tellers. Mobile banking needs to help explain what a user’s money and transactions mean and what they can do. Users want an experience that is contextual, not just based on location, but also based on previous transactions, current account balances, and what is being planned for the near and long-term future. Banking data can be used to drive key decision points for consumers. The user expects the experience to be not only visually appealing, seamless and pleasurable, but also to take advantage of the latest technologies. Why can’t I know my current balance from my smart watch or Google Glass? A critical aspect of relevance is interacting with consumers where they prefer to interact.

So the big question is, who is winning?

Right now, it’s the startups – apps like Simple, Moven and Level. The start-ups are more nimble and are taking more risk to stay relevant. They’ve pushed beyond just a transactional experience to a lifestyle utility. They aren’t just a source of information, but are tapping into what money can help with, in a very personalized way. No one wants to see only how much they owe on their credit card. For many users, looking at a bank account is more of a source of stress. It has remained a relationship that was strictly transactional with deposits and payments. But when you help the user manage their money and look ahead at what their money can do for them, you become a source of hope.  Users want a relationship where someone is looking out for them, understanding their motivation and goals.

Solstice MobileBanking_Chart

Big banks are not out of the game yet. The new start-ups are missing years of data, historical trends and key partnerships. In order to delve into a rich contextual experience means tapping into Big Data and banking trends. So, my advice for the big banks? Put your customer and his or her experience first. Continue to innovate, rapidly iterate and bring new solutions to market quickly instead of getting stuck in analysis paralysis and letting start-ups beat you to the best in mobile banking.  Find ways that you can use disruptive technologies and a contextual experience to create more frequent and more relevant touch points for your user.

Last, but not least, the brick and mortar isn’t really dead. A true user-centered mobile experience can be a catalyst to drive a better experience across all of your channels, which is something the start-ups don’t have. The mobile banking ecosystem is still in its infancy. As it evolves, the ones to win the revolution will be those who innovate quickly and put a relevant, cross-channel user experience above all else.

 

Marisa MannMarisa Mann, Director of Solution Delivery at Solstice MobileMarisa brings over 15 years of experience in consulting and financial services industries to the Solstice team, working on large scale enterprise initiatives across many technologies, including specializing in the digital space – Internet and mobile. Mann is passionate about mobile and the endless possibilities for the enterprise, delivering business value through strong brand recognition and driving to excellence in the consumer experience. Prior to Solstice, Mann worked at JP Morgan Chase, Diamond Management and Technology Consultants, Washington Mutual, Inc, and Accenture.

 

What We’re Reading: Mobile Banking, Google Glass and Regulation

Below are interesting stories the Banking.com staff has been reading over the past week. What have you been reading? Let us know in the comments section below or Tweet @bankingdotcom.

 

  • Google Glass Dazzles Reporter. Will Bankers Feel the Same?

American Banker

Some of the mobile app features banks already offer, including augmented reality (read: PNC’s ATM Finder app), account information lookups, and geolocation, could eventually be incorporated into Google Glass. The project was first announced last year. It was later offered to coders at the company’s developer conference, Google I/O. On a recent Google Hangout, tech blogger Robert Scoble said that at least one bank overseas is already creating a version of its mobile banking app that will work on Glass.
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  • Mobile Banking Activity Rises in May

American Banker

Along with temperatures in most parts of the country, mobile banking activity continued to increase in May. The overall value of American Banker’s Mobile Banking Intensity Index was 73.8 for that month, a significant increase over April’s value of 70.4. Many of the bankers surveyed for the index said adoption of mobile banking continues to grow as more customers become comfortable with it. The MBII is a diffusion index; For context, readings above 50 in a diffusion index indicate expansion and readings below 50 point to contraction.

Read more

  • Is Mobile Guidance on the Way?

Bank Info Security

U.S. banking institutions should be bracing now for new mobile banking and payments security guidelines from regulators or updates to existing guidance, a growing number of banking leaders and mobile experts are concluding. Recent discussions among regulators and banking leaders about mobile risks, as well as the issuance of papers related to mobile best practices, suggest some type of security update related to mobile is on the way. Doug Johnson, vice president of risk management policy for the American Bankers Association, says the timing for more mobile guidance is right, and banking regulatory agencies are using different vehicles to push security recommendations.

Read more

  • Building Trust and Innovation through Digital Banking

Bank Systems & Technology

With online and mobile banking continuing to make deep inroads into consumers’ lives, it is time for banks to rethink how they attract and retain customers. Creating relationships with digital customers is critical if banks want to differentiate their brands and boost loyalty. Increasingly, banks can identify and mine a wealth of information about their customers – from social media and a variety of other digital sources – to make connections and draw insights that previously remained in silos or were unknown. By harnessing the power of digital channels, banks can move away from reactive, transaction-based customer relationships, towards a more personalized and proactive experience.

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  • What Banks Need To Know About IFCPA

Bank Systems & Technology

In fact, starting July 1, Section 1244 of the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012 (IFCPA) represents a significant expansion of activities and entities potentially subject to sanctions, including key Iranian industries such as energy, shipping, shipbuilding and automotive. This latest round of regulations not only presents several challenges to U.S. banks, but also greatly expands extra-territorial reach. The broadened mandates state the president reserves the right to impose sanctions on anyone who knowingly sells, supplies or transfers significant goods or services used in connection to the energy, shipping, automotive and shipbuilding industries, along with a ban on shipments of precious metals and other materials such as coal and graphite.

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  • 21-Year-Old Raises Largest Seed Round In Silicon Valley History — $25 Million — For Mysterious Payments App

Business Insider

Twenty-one-year-old Lucas Duplan just raised more millions than his age. The first-time entrepreneur and recent Stanford graduate (he finished a computer science degree in three years) has been working on a mobile payment app for the past two years. He’s now been awarded $25 million from a long list of Silicon Valley investors which includes Andreessen Horowitz, Peter Thiel, Accel Partners’ Jim Breyer, Intel, Intuit, former Facebook COO Owen Van Natta, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, the founders of Qualcomm and VMware, and many others. The kicker: The app hasn’t launched yet and it isn’t going to for a few more months. Duplan’s 50-person team raised the entire $25 million – the largest seed round in Silicon Valley history – on a mere working prototype and a beta test at Stanford University.

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  • Survey Finds ‘Impressive’ Interest In Mobile Picture Pay Solutions

Credit Union Journal

Mobile Picture Pay, a new service that lets end-users take pictures of bills to make payments, showed “impressive” results in April, according to a new study from Malauzai Software, Inc. Malauzai, a provider of mobile banking SmartApps, said data from its Monkey Insights service for April and based on 94 banks and CUs encompassing 1.1-million log-ins for 85,000 registered mobile banking users, found: With Mobile Picture Pay, 5% of active end-users have used the feature in the first 90 days of launch. End-users are making 1.57 Picture Pay payments per month. The average payment size for Picture Pay is $151, about 40% less than standard bill pay.

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  • Paid via Card, Workers Feel Sting of Fees

New York Times

A growing number of American workers are confronting a frustrating predicament on payday: to get their wages, they must first pay a fee. For these largely hourly workers, paper paychecks and even direct deposit have been replaced by prepaid cards issued by their employers. But in the overwhelming majority of cases, using the card involves a fee. These fees can take such a big bite out of paychecks that some employees end up making less than the minimum wage once the charges are taken into account, according to interviews with consumer lawyers, employees, and state and federal regulators.

Read more

 

The Phab Factor

When it comes to technology, the banking industry spends a lot of time just trying to keep up. From the glut of function-specific applications arriving daily to new hardware like Google Glass, there’s always something new just around the corner, and every fresh entry has the potential to change everything.

But what if there was a new market already here that hasn’t been categorized as such? Would that offer some interesting possibilities?

Meet the phablet. Actually, you probably met it a while ago and carry it around all the time.

A bit of context here: The driving force behind Apple’s revolutionary iPad was to bridge the yawning chasm between the laptop and phone. The former—despite its designation as something we could carry around and perch on our knees—was entirely too big, while the later was just too small. (A few mini-notebooks attracted some attention but never really caught fire.) The tablet fit the bill perfectly and the touch-screen functionality, complete with keyboard, was the cherry on top.

But now, as avid consumers search for new modes of consumption, we want more (or less, depending on the device). That’s why we have the iPad mini, alongside smaller versions of non-Apple tablets. This is technically a new market, and users seem to grasp the concept—quite a few have bought one in addition to the regular-sized device they bought earlier. But what’s equally interesting, though perhaps less noticed, is that while tablets have gotten smaller, phones have gotten larger.

That brings us back to the phablet, which eliminates the apparent gap between phones and tablets. The category is loosely defined as devices with larger screens, but it’s not only about size. Some devices in this market feature software designed and/or customized for the phablet as a form factor. For example, the Samsung Galaxy Note touts a self-storing S Pen stylus for certain functions (which users with a memory might remember from earlier Palm devices).

It’s easy to make phun, sorry, fun, of the phablet. Even the word reeks of geekery run amok, a pointless portmanteau for an unnecessary category. (‘Superphone,’ a newer addition to the vocabulary, is even more groan-inducing.)  A recent piece on the subject in American Banker actually begins with the words, “They may look ridiculous, but. . .”

But that ‘but’ is important—despite the derision, this segment continues to spike at a staggering pace. The new report “Phablets and Superphones Market – Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth and Forecast, 2012 – 2018” predicts that the phablet (let’s just get used to saying it) market is growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 44.1% from 2012 to 2018, reaching 825 million units and $116.4 billion.

This puts us in a strange place—here’s a market that’s already vast and will keep growing, yet there’s virtually no functionality customized specifically for it.

It’s easy to dismiss the notion of any real difference between smartphones and phablets, and this could be just another fad, of course. Still, there’s no question that a huge audience has emerged specifically for larger phones—a complete reversal of long-held beliefs that we like our phones to be as small and light as possible. And just to be practical, the phablet will fit into clothes in a way the tablet won’t.

So here’s how this will play out. The phablet will remain what it is, a phone with a larger screen that eases multimedia functions. Alternatively, it will become a specific hardware category, thanks in part to innovators who can thread the needle and develop apps and capabilities that dovetail perfectly with this form factor. Those individuals and the organizations that back them will reap the rewards. The rest of us will wonder why we didn’t think of that.

Mobile banking is literally in its infancy—it didn’t even exist just a few years ago. Today, facing frantic competition, every financial services institution is pouring resources into the field, with dazzling apps that can function on every kind of platform. Staying ahead of the curve for once might make for a healthy change.

What We’re Reading: Google Glass, Payments and Branches

Below are interesting stories the Banking.com staff has been reading over the past week. What have you been reading? Let us know in the comments section below or Tweet @bankingdotcom.

 

  • Google’s Glass Guidelines Provide Clues to Future Bank Apps

American Banker

Banks will be prohibited from advertising on Google Glass, the wearable computing product the tech giant has just started releasing to privileged developers and early adopters. In guidelines and best practices Google released this week, the search engine company told developers it will reject apps for the device — so-called “Glassware” — that it considers an irritation to users. “Google is very clear about apps limiting distraction, not [bothering] people all the time, so this isn’t something that banks can use as a platform to coax their customers 100 times a day,” says Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst with Forrester Research. “But it is potentially a platform for them to deliver utility when it could be most useful.”

Read more

  • Phablet, Superphone Shipments Expected to Reach 825 Million Units in 2018

American Banker

They may look ridiculous, but phablets and superphones — mini tablets and extra-large phones — have a bright future, according to research released today by Transparency Market Research. According to a new market report, “Phablets and Superphones Market — Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth and Forecast, 2012 — 2018,” the global phablets and superphones market is expected to reach $116.4 billion by 2018, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 44.1% from 2012 to 2018. The number of units of the devices is expected to grow at a CAGR of 25.8% from 2012 to 2018, and reach 825 million by 2018.

Read more

  • Critical Bank Management Skills for the 21st Century

Bank Systems & Technology

In the past, your teams needed to be able to demonstrate a detailed grasp of policy, rigor in analyzing reports, and dedication to data quality — but to tackle today’s challenges, a different form of expertise is required. The rapidly shifting economic and regulatory conditions of the 21st century, mean that market changes often outpace management skills. In the past, your teams needed to be able to demonstrate a detailed grasp of policy, rigor in analyzing reports, and dedication to data quality – but to tackle today’s challenges, a different form of expertise is required.

Read more

  • How Apple and Amazon Will Shape Mobile Payments

Bank Systems & Technology

Apple and Amazon will continue to drive customer expectations and create big shifts in the retail world even if they don’t release a mobile payments solution. Many traditional payments players like banks have been worried for a while about the possibility of Apple entering the mobile payments space at the point of sale. Many speculated that the last iPhone release would include an NFC chip, which did not happen to the relief of those who would have to compete with Apple. Although Apple already has a bridgehead into the payments business thanks to iTunes, experts seem to think Apple will refrain from entering the mobile payments business.

Read more

  • Small Banks Excel at Industry Specialization

Barlow Research Analyst’s Journal

Many business banking customers value financial institutions and banking relationships that cater to their specific industry’s needs. Unfortunately, not all business customers believe their bank is industry-focused. However, customers that believe their primary bank caters to their specific industry needs appear to be more confident about the financial condition of their company, as well as their industry and believe their banker is more knowledgeable about their business. Barlow Research’s Second Quarter 2013 Economic Pulse provides valuable information about business banking customers’ need for industry-focused financial institutions.

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  • The five layers of Online banking security

CIOL

It is becoming increasingly critical that financial institutions ensure their consumer and corporate banking customers are able to access their accounts with the highest reasonable security, using a process that is very straightforward and approachable. There have been significant changes in the threat landscape for online banking. In order to protect customers using Internet-based products and services, such as applications, the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FIEC) and other regulators have instituted significantly more stringent requirements for financial institutions. Ensuring a compliant security program requires the execution of a good, multi-faceted authentication solution.

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  • Retailers likely to be winners in m-payments, with banks making it work, suggests leading banker

Internet Retailer

Mobile payments is currently a three way battle for consumers being fought out between retailers, banks and mobile network operators – each keen to ‘own the customer’ – but it will be retailers and banks that win, leading m-payment experts concluded at the International Payment Summit (IPS) in London last week. Mobile operators are likely to end up just as dumb pipes. Retailers, banks and operators are all looking towards mobile wallets as the key to mobile payments and this is likely how the technology will start to gain traction in mainstream retail and it is through this that mobile payments will start to be used. But who will brand the wallets and how do you make sure not every retailer, bank and brand that a consumer uses has its own wallet?

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  • What Bank Branch Closures Mean for Consumers

U.S. News

The traditional notion of banking, in which customers visit their local branch to deposit money, check their balance or take out a loan, may no longer be the reality. In the past year, American banks shuttered more than 2,000 branch locations—and news of additional closings appears on a regular basis. Banks cite rising operation costs and shifts in consumer-banking behaviors as primary causes for reducing the number of branches. For banks, these decisions are a matter of improving their bottom line, but for customers, these closings may force them to develop new habits. In one way or another, most people are likely to notice a change in how they interact with their bank.

Read more

What We’re Reading: Facebook, Google Glass and iPads

Below are interesting stories the Banking.com staff has been reading over the past week. What have you been reading? Let us know in the comments section below or Tweet @bankingdotcom.

 

  • Facebook Design Changes Could Benefit Banks, If They Adapt Quickly

American Banker

Facebook’s latest update to the way it presents shared information to users could help bank marketers. A battery of changes will include larger photos and four new feeds (to keep tabs on all friends, the photos friends are sharing, music the user has indicated he likes, and the latest news from pages and people the user follows). The new feeds could help bank customers keep up with what their financial services companies are sharing, assuming they “friend” their banks.

Read more

  • Google Glass Will Change Your Branches

American Banker

Google has teased us once more with an augmented reality future. The company has released images and video heralding what appears to be the imminent launch of their Glass augmented reality devices. Not surprisingly, commentators are predicting a seismic shift that will match the launch of the iPhone. That has created a wave of excitement, as banks and technology providers speculate how these innovations will turbo-charge mobile banking.

Read more

  • Who is Your Borrower in a Virtual World?

Bank Systems & Technology

The traditional, documentary method of verifying the identity of a customer is for an employee of a financial institution to look at a government-issued photo ID and manually check it against customer-provided information. The non-documentary procedures start with obtaining information from the applicant that can be compared to information in the public record from third party sources. The developing best practice is to cross check nonpublic personally identifiable information that is input by the applicant against the information on credit reports. Through API exchanges with the major credit reporting agencies the personal information input by the applicant can be verified against the information independently provided in the credit report.

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  • iPads, Other Tablets to Drive Mobile Banking

Billing World

One in four tablet PC users will use their devices to pay bills by 2017, says a new report. Juniper Research found that a growing user acceptance of “push” mobile banking and a sharp rise in tablet adoption will drive users of transactional tablet banking services to almost 200 million in 2017. This will represent approximately one-fifth (19 percent) of total mobile banking customers in 2017, compared to just 9 percent this year. The report finds that, adoption of mobile bill presentment and payment (MBPP) transactional banking by tablet users will be higher than mobile handset users, especially in developed areas where there is a higher adoption of tablets. The report says as consumer tablet adoption continues to rise, there will be significant migration of purchasing and transaction activity from laptops and desktops to tablet devices.

Read more

  • Clay Christensen: Jeff Bezos, Scott Cook, and Steve Jobs Got Disruption Right

Business Insider

In an interview appearing at strategy+business, Clay Christensen argues that many executives are pushed to make decisions that are quick and profitable, and they frequently rely heavily on incomplete data. When asked which executives thought about disruption the right way, Christensen cited ex-Intel CEO and co-founder Andy Grove and his response to inexpensive laptops. As for more recent examples, Christensen said: “Of the managers I’ve known, I think Scott Cook, who is the founder of Intuit, is most prone to think this way…”

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  • Going cashless

Celent Banking Blog

The Dutch looking to get rid of cash. They got rid of checks in 2001 as a payments instrument, and now they’re making moves to go that next step. Yes, it was a publicity stunt (there was also a big sell on contactless for example), but equally they were making payments fun, not something that you can often say! Few countries have managed to get cash to a point where it’s less than 50% of all transactions.

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  • US Bank intros BillPay feature for iOS and Android, lets you set up bill payments with a pic 

Engadget

Judging by recently announced projects like Go Mobile, it’s quite clear that US Bank is working hard at keeping up with the mobile banking curve. With today’s introduction of its new Mobile Photo BillPay feature, the company’s giving customers using an iOS or Android device yet another nifty tool to take advantage of while on the go — one that’s set to make it easy to set up bill payments by simply taking a shot of any invoice and uploading it to an account from within the app.

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  • Dear Mobile Industry: Time To Step It Up On Security

Forbes.com

In less than 10 years, smartphones and tablets have taken over. This year, the mobile industry will ship 1 billion smartphones globally, doubling the number of installed smartphones to about 2 billion. While we may agree that the mobile revolution has greatly benefitted all of us, our mobile devices are far from infallible when it comes to fraud and cybercrime. Many security firms predict 2013 will bring a rise in cyber attacks on mobile devices in general, and smartphones in particular.

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  • Area credit unions continue to gain popularity as the economy recovers

Washington Post

Membership, deposits and loan originations at area credit unions — particularly the largest ones — rose last year as the broader economy continued its climb, according to data released last week by the National Credit Union Administration. The figures mirror a national trend in which membership rose 2.2 percent in 2012, as 2 million new members signed up.
Read more

 

Look Who’s Talking

We recently highlighted on this blog how, while software gets all the attention at the intersection of financial services and technology, hardware has a unique role to play in enhancing the customer experience. From mobile devices to the new Google Glass, we’re going (or at least hoping) to see new form factors emerge, each one doing its part to make some functions easier and enable new capabilities. But there are other elements at play here too. For example, say something.

Yes, that unique instrument known as the human voice is gaining importance in banking, and it should be fun watching how this evolves.

For the past few months, the wealth management division of British banking conglomerate Barclays has been using voice-activated biometrics technology to enhance security through authentication at its call center. Combined with existing caller ID procedures, it takes only a minute of controlled conversation to authenticate the caller’s voice.

To be sure, it’s not an entirely seamless process. While the recording mechanism is always running, callers must consent to enrolling in the system and having their ID associated with the voice print (the record is otherwise discarded). The system does raise some privacy concerns, and the bank itself acknowledges that the process can get in the way of a smooth customer interaction.

But then there are the benefits. The company behind the technology, Nuance FreeSpeech, claims that the vast majority of Barclays’ clients, 93 percent, gave a very high rating to the system’s speed and ease of use. Besides, any element that enhances security should be welcomed.

Yes, we can all think of ways to get around these barriers—the Mission Impossible movies have shown us myriad methods for overcoming voice-activated security controls, just as James Bond got around fingerprint obstacles in the Sean Connery days. But security is too important to let such issues dictate which standards are set.

Just this week, we learned that a new botkit is celebrating the one-year anniversary of Google Play by leveraging verified accounts in that thriving environment to lure users with phony banking applications. The Czech Republic’s stock exchange in Prague, its central bank and several commercial banks were partly or fully crashed by (presumably) a posse of sophisticated hackers, threatening or at least affecting online banking processes. And of course, the hacktivist collective known as Anonymous recently took credit for an attack on an investment banking firm, while Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters promised another round of DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) and other attacks on financial institutions.

Just another day at the office for security professionals.

Yet while security remains a paramount concern, there should be other benefits as well. The whole point of new technologies is not merely to ease and secure current functionality but to offer new capabilities. Just as with new form factors and mobile applications, we should be able to do things with voice- and speech-recognition technologies that we can’t do any other way.

Looking ahead just a little bit, it’s entirely possible that we’ll get technologies that can transmit our voice to central servers without a visible microphone, which will be sewn into our clothes on even embedded in our bodies. Creepy? Definitely—but if it’s accompanied by a raft of new applications that offer dazzling capabilities and greater security, who’s going to complain? Speculation welcome.

When the Form Factor is the X Factor

Most of the discussion around technology and financial services focuses on software and related services—new apps and capabilities, upgraded tools for security, platform shifts in the infrastructure, etc. But there’s another angle that deserves greater attention and is starting to get it: hardware.

Consider Google Glass, the newest innovation from one of the world’s most innovative technology companies. By now, the early details have been widely documented: it’s a head-mounted computer that obeys voice commands to perform a wide range of functions, from searches to taking pictures and sending messages, all hands-free. This makes a critical difference, as Google founder Sergey Brin just demonstrated during his appearance at TED. Looking down at a smartphone has the unfortunate side effect of disrupting social interaction with other human beings; with Google Glass, you don’t have to do that.

But these rudimentary functions are just that; they represent the nascent form of an emerging technology. What will this form factor be able to do, and enable us to do, a year from now? More specifically, how will it affect financial services? What, if anything, does it have to do with banking?

We don’t necessarily have the answers yet, but they go to the heart of why this question of hardware is so important.

First, it’s clear that (once compatibility issues are resolved), many banking apps currently available, from account information to geo-location, can be overlaid onto this new platform. Looking a little bit ahead, it’s even possible to visualize (pun not intended) a scenario in which, say, investment professionals receive instant market alters and make adjustments to their portfolio without any change to their habits and public demeanor. But in this age of rapid advances, even that doesn’t seem much of a stretch.

The point of a brand new form factor is not only that it enables us to more easily do what we already do, but that it enables us to do new things, which in turn affects our behavior in a positive way. The reality of ‘wearable computing’ has never quite lived up to the potential. Could Google Glass be the one that finally breaks through?

Consider the changes wrought by smartphones and tablets. This market didn’t exist just a few years ago, and now we’re coming up on 800,000 apps for the iPhone alone. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of hardware in this mix. In fact, it’s now estimated that mobile banking will be fueled in part by smartphone cameras. Well over half of all iPhone users favor mobile deposits, while 42% of mobile bankers say they’d like to use photo bill pay.

Inevitably, there’s a downside to all this. The bad guys know there are ripe pickings in this market, which is why, for example, cybercriminals are launching sophisticated hacks such as through near field communications (NFCs) on mobile devices in public areas. The more devices we have, the more attacks there will be.

Google Glass is still in its infancy; the company has put the technology in the hands of some 8,000 testers (who had to apply for the privilege by writing as essay on how they might use it). It’s not expected to be generally available until early next year.

Betting on a nascent technology is always a risky proposition, especially when it involves a new form factor. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how (or whether) it gains broad-scale adoption, and which particular applications find an early audience.

But if history is any guide, we know this much. The app developers who are first out of the gate with tools that don’t just tweak existing releases but play to the strengths of the form factor itself will be the most successful.