Trading Technology

12:10 PM
Ivy Schmerken
Ivy Schmerken
Commentary
Connect Directly
Facebook
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Financial Firms Can't Ignore iPad and Android Tablet Apps

Brokerage firms are developing apps for the iPad and other Android-alternative tablets, but they should take advantage of the larger screen display and compute power to offer more than what's on a smartphone.

As sales of iPads leap off the shelves and Kindle Fires gain traction as an Android-based tablet alternative, pundits have seized upon tablets as the future of computing. Whether this is hype or the new reality, in retail financial services, this means that brokerage firms serving investors and financial advisors on-the-go will need to create apps suited for the iPads and Android tablet devices.

Since the iPad was launched two years ago, many financial services firms have released tablet-formatted apps that take advantage of the iPad’s larger screen size and computing power, notes research firm Corporate Insight in a recent report focused on iPad & Tablet Apps.

Twelve of the 20 firms tracked by the research firm (in what it calls its Mobile Monitor coverage group) offer an account management experience specifically designed for the iPad. Breaking this down further, six bank and credit card firms and seven investment firms out of the 20 companies now offer iPad apps. A smaller number — only two firms — American Express and Bank of America —provide apps for a variety of Android-powered tablets.

But how many of these tablet apps— mainly developed for the iPad since it’s the most popular tablet so far — are unique to the tablet?

“One of the keys to demonstrating true leadership in the tablet space (and scoring well in our grading) is to offer a tablet app that improves upon what is already available on a smartphone,” wrote Corporate Insight in its report published in May. In other words, some financial services firms are recycling the same app they provide on the smartphone without transforming it to capitalize on the tablet’s features. Corporate Insight suggests that some firms have struggled to adapt new features available on their smartphones for the tablet, which the firm calls, “ a significant drawback.”

In the brokerage space, the report singles out Charles Schwab and Fidelity for providing new account visualizations, while noting that Fidelity and Merrill Edge enhance charting capabilities for the tablet’s larger display space. Fidelity receives kudos for providing a strong global market overview for the tablet app, as well as new account charts and tables, full-screen charts with expanded upper and lower indicators from its smartphone apps, and strong transaction capabilities equal to other apps— transfers, bill pay, check deposit.

While brokerage firms were by and large the first firms to offer iPad apps, eyeing the advantages to display market data and advanced charts, they have not yet embraced Androids, though.

The increased real-estate space enables tablet designers to be more creative about how to display account or market data. As an example, Charles Schwab’s iPad app displays position performance on one chart, with a helpful key to explain its meaning, the report notes. Enhanced account visualization is something that gives customers a reason to download a firm’s tablet app, asserts Corporate Insight.

Interestingly, some investment firms are rolling out their investor magazines on the tablet, in some cases, before they have an account management offering. Three investment firms — Charles Schwab, T. Rowe Price and TD Ameritrade — offer versions of client publications via iPad app. Charles Schwab offered its Online Investing magazine via the app store before it had a main app and T.Rowe Price has the magazine app as their only presence on the ipad currently.

Here is some advice for designing a new or improved tablet experience from Corporate Insight:

—Firms from all industry segments (banking, credit card, brokerage/investment) should be developing iPad apps. Firms that leave their clients to use their standard website or the iPhone version of their app risk appearing out of of touch with modern technology, it warns.

—Financial firms should not ignore other tablets. While few firms offer apps for the Kindle Fire or other Android-based tablets, consumers are waking up to these alternatives to the iPad, especially since the Kindle Fire’s price point is attractive. Financial firms should expect demand for Android-tablets to grow in the next few years and plan accordingly.

—Consider a modular design. Using the larger screen size of a tablet screen allows firms to combine what would be several screens on a smartphone into one display. E*Trade and Merrill Lynch provide related account information and research data on a single screen, for example.

—Don’t overcrowd screens. When designing apps for the iPad and other tablets, firms should not crowd every inch of screen space as if it were a smartphone. Strike a balance between providing more content than on a small screen and keeping a clear, spacious, readable design.

—Use fly-outs and pop-ups for elements that don’t need to be enlarged. This can be effective for features such as quotes, trade tickets or transfer interfaces.

—Tablet apps require new, more thorough help features. Though tablets are popular, many users are still unfamiliar with their controls and capabilities. Firms should provide FAQs, and include guides that explain touch screen controls such as tapping, swiping, holding — and call out key features. Since firms are devoting resources to develop tablet apps, they should make sure people understand them.

—Consider other content that can be adapted for tablets. Reach clients with relevant editorial content, such as their investor magazines formatted for the iPad. This can be a smart way to interact with clients if the firm doesn’t yet have a full iPad app.

Ivy is Editor-at-Large for Advanced Trading and Wall Street & Technology. Ivy is responsible for writing in-depth feature articles, daily blogs and news articles with a focus on automated trading in the capital markets. As an industry expert, Ivy has reported on a myriad ... View Full Bio
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Greg MacSweeney
50%
50%
Greg MacSweeney,
User Rank: Author
7/21/2014 | 6:39:35 AM
Android Void?
It is surprising that only a few financial companies are offering apps for Android tablets, especially since Android has a larger marketshare than iOS. I wonder why? Is is because there are so many different types of Android-powered tablets and that it is hard to build 1 app that works well on all of the different screen sizes?
IvySchmerken
50%
50%
IvySchmerken,
User Rank: Author
7/16/2014 | 1:13:39 PM
Re: Firms choose Windows phones?
It's interesting that your financial firm has chosen a Windows-based Nokia phone over Android and iOS. It sounds like you are preparing for the convergence of mobile phones with desktop applications.  If the phone is Windows based, presumably it can run Word and other desktop applications using the big screen. Do you see the tablet fitting into your strategy as well?
speedo1456
50%
50%
speedo1456,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/13/2014 | 9:33:36 PM
Firms choose Windows phones?
As a starting business owner, I was investigating what kind of mobile device I would purchase for me and my employees. After thorough investigation I found out that especially android devices have too much issues. Our financial firm Mafillia has decided to go for the Nokia Windows phone 1520 that has the best of everything, like a big screen and the possibilities to run all the software we also used in our desktops.
More Commentary
Chief Data Officers: Organization Strategy & Cultural Change
Chief data officers are new to the financial services C-suite, but they are facing a number of challenges, including the need for new data governance and execution strategies, staffing, and new organizational structures to enable cultural change.
New York FinTech Innovation Lab Calls for New Entrepreneurial Applicants
Wells Fargo joins 14 other major financial institutions providing mentoring and guidance to the six chosen startups.
Micro Data Challenges in an Era of Macroprudential Regulation
Research and statistical analysis experts at central banks are tasked with developing sophisticated forecasts and models to identify systemic risk. Yet they are spending most of their time acting as data entry clerks, rather than developing these models.
The Perks of 'SmartSourcing' Shared Services in Financial Industry
A breadth of vital but undifferentiated business processes are still being replicated across the industry. They are all candidates for centralization.
Managing Social Media Risk Strategy: Technology Can Only Go So Far
Advanced analytical technologies are an important part of a social media risk management strategy, an Accenture report says, but the technology must be balanced with training and procedures.
Register for Wall Street & Technology Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
Wall Street & Technology - Elite 8, October 2014
The in-depth profiles of this year's Elite 8 honorees focus on leadership, talent recruitment, big data, analytics, mobile, and more.
Video
Exclusive: Inside the GETCO Execution Services Trading Floor
Exclusive: Inside the GETCO Execution Services Trading Floor
Advanced Trading takes you on an exclusive tour of the New York trading floor of GETCO Execution Services, the solutions arm of GETCO.