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Head-to-head: Mobile banking in NZ

Michael Dutton, Optimal Usability. 15 May 2013, 3:42 pm
Head-to-head: Mobile banking in NZ

All banks provide some form of mobile banking services, which is the best? Recently usability experts Optimal Usability pitted all of the major banks' mobile offering head-to-head, to bring you the good, the bad and the ugly of mobile banking. Who wins? Read on to find out...

Do you use a smartphone to access important information and services on-the-go? If so, you are not alone: New Zealand is in the midst of a mobile revolution. In a 2012 study, Google estimated that 44% of New Zealanders access the internet using some type of smart phone and this number is only projected to increase.

Have you moved from viewing your smartphone as a gadget for entertainment and communication? Is it now an indispensable tool in your everyday activities? If so, you are part of a growing population of smartphone users that is savvier and more demanding of your mobile experience.

The smartphone revolution presents many challenges and benefits in the world of commerce. Banks epitomize just how difficult it is for large organisations to balance the needs of consumers with security concerns in the mobile environment. They must build user-friendly apps (to attract users) that are robust (to keep users) and secure (to protect users). They simply can’t afford to work by trial-and-error.

Whether in the interest of security or as a result of following custom, banks, like many large organisations, often develop products based on existing capabilities and what they imagine their customers might want. This “inside-out” approach to mobile can easily lead to poor user experiences.

“Kiwis are getting used to well-designed and user friendly mobile apps from leading global designers like Apple, Google, Facebook and Instagram, and are increasingly expecting and demanding the same quality mobile user experience from their bank.” – Kris Nygren

New Zealand Mobile Banking Apps Evaluation

Optimal Usability reviewed all of the New Zealand mobile banking apps currently available for personal banking to try and discover the best customer experience. We also evaluated US bank JP Morgan Chase, whose award-winning mobile banking experience is often used as a benchmark in mobile banking, to see how well the New Zealand banks compare globally.

The Banking App Icons

We scored each bank (ANZ, ASB, BNZ, KiwiBank, TSB and Westpac, and JP Morgan Chase) on five criteria:

  1. Features – what can customers actually do on the app?
  2. Platforms – which smartphones and operating systems are supported?
  3. User ratings – how do users rate the app?
  4. Usability – how do the apps score in user testing with real customers?
  5. Interaction design – how do the apps score on an independent design evaluation framework?

Each of the five criteria were weighted and combined to provide an over-all Customer Experience Score.


The Best Mobile Banking App in New Zealand

ASB earned the highest over-all Customer Experience Score at 77.8 (out of 100), beating out even the highly acclaimed Chase Bank offering, which scored 74.9. BNZ (68.8) and Westpac (67.4) came in second and third within NZ banks, and no one scored less than 56.

ASB 1st, BNZ 2nd, and Westpac 3rd

As you can imagine, the apps all had specific strong suits and weak points. For example, BNZ, TSB and KiwiBank had the highest user ratings. Westpac and ASB scored high on platforms, while TSB works only on the iPhone. Westpac even offers a dedicated iPad app, and is the only New Zealand bank to do so. Chase Bank customers can access mobile banking on every mobile platform!

TSB provided the most features, followed by ASB, and ANZ provided the least. TSB, however; tested poorly with real users, and had many usability issues and a low score in interaction design.


Lessons Learned for Mobile Bank Apps

A couple of points are worth noting as you consider the above results:

  • The banks we evaluated don’t have a level playing field. For example, Chase Bank has annual revenues of more than $100 billion, compared with TSB Bank’s $200 million or so.
  • As proof of the speed of mobile banking market, these January 2013 project results are already out-of-date! Some banks have released updates to their mobile banking apps since our review and some are currently developing entirely new apps.

“More than one customer in our user testing study commented that they would consider moving bank for a better mobile banking experience. That tells you something of the mobile groundswell in New Zealand. I imagine it will also make some of our banks very nervous.” – Kris Nygren

For more information, check out the briefing at, or get in touch with Optimal Usability. In this project, we reaffirmed our view that thoughtful design and rigorous user testing with real users is critically important to delivering a great customer experience. As we saw with the mobile banking apps, increasingly complex and numerous features only make this more important.

Disclaimer: Optimal Usability has provided user experience design and consulting services to all the banks featured in this review, except TSB Bank and JP Morgan Chase.


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