Of Apples and Banks
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5 February 2014Gareth Lodge
Zil’s most excellent post about his recent experience with a new payment type highlights one of the challenges that all new systems face – they’ve got to work “out of the box”. Few people (including Mrs Zil!) would have been so patient. That reminded me of a recent conversation Zil & I had around iPhones, and more generally Apple. Last year Zil swapped his iPhone for another leading brand of smartphone, for a variety of reasons. But he’s almost certainly going to be swapping back, primarily because the iPhone works “out of the box” with other things he has. That phrase again. The Apple ecosystem works well together, and, for most people, life is far more straight forward by sticking to just Apple products. I think we forget sometimes that this is perhaps the single biggest differentiator for Apple. The total picture is more thought through and designed than most others. For example, many people don’t realise that Apple weren’t the first to market with the mp3 player. They were 3 years behind the first, and still after Intel (yes, that Intel!), Sony, Creative, and Bang and Olufsen. Nor was it the best (and arguably still not) in terms of features and functions. But it came with iTunes which consumerised the process of managing music – and more importantly, the buying of music, seamlessly. iTunes, for the advanced user such as me, is a real pain. Not only does it not provide the functionality I require, but it struggles with the (atypical) size of my music collection. But I still use it, because it works with my ecosystem more broadly and that offsets the deficiencies. So what’s the point of this post? I think a couple of things stand out for me. Apple are rumoured to be moving into mobile payments. The issues Zil faced will almost certainly be overcome by Apple, because of their approach to things. Equally, we can expect that it’ll be far broader and better thought through service than many offerings. And as a result, whilst it may not be the best service, it’ll probably get traction quicker. Secondly, the other take-away for banks for me is not to rush innovation, but to get it right, and to seek to how to make it a more seamless service. One positive thing as a result of being an analyst is that my bank has now provided me with a relationship manager, who can highlight to me a range of services, and is “just a phone call away”. Amazon and Apple are remarkably accurate in suggesting things I might like to buy. Not only does my bank not do it, (and I think they must have a “lucky dip” approach to the mailshots they send me!) but rarely is my relationship manager or bank manager empowered to do even start the sales process, even for something as simple as getting a credit card. This isn’t about omni-channel in terms of technology, but omni-channel in terms of customer. As a customer, I don’t care whether it’s a different part of the bank that the product is coming from – if has the same bank logo on, then too me it’s the same people. Some banks have lost sight of the old adage – it should be easy to buy, not easy to sell.