Which Canadian bank has the best app?

The days of making a visit to a local bank branch and updating a paper account balance booklet are just a relic of the pre-digital age for most Canadians.

Even ATMs are declining in use, although we still need to use them to take out cash every now and then. The way Canadians interact with their banks has been changing drastically ever since the advent of online banking – now the primary means of banking for 55 per cent of Canadians, according to the Canadian Bankers Association – and the proliferation of mobile devices has reignited the disruption trend.

About one-third of Canadians have used mobile banking in the past year and 25 per cent say they’re using it more oftend. One in four Canadians don’t expect to still be carrying around cash in a decade, and more than half foresee the obsolescence of the chequebook.

Banks are being challenged by this new mobile paradigm. We learned from a CenturyLink / IDC survey earlier this month that many IT executives don’t feel like their IT infrastructure and processes meet customer expectations for core banking services. The McKinsey Global Banking Annual Review for 2015 released this week paints a picture of banks pitted against the looming threat of digital-savvy disruptors looking to steal the customer relationship.

Given the situation banks face in the near-future is one where mobile is increasingly important and the need to be as close to the customer as possible is critical, we decided to take a look at how banks are rated on their mobile products currently. We did a comparison of app ratings and features for Canada’s ‘big five’ banks on Apple’s App Store and Google Play. The information was collected Oct. 1.

Keep scrolling for analysis, but here’s what the spreadsheet looks like:

Parity on Android

The first thing you’ll notice when looking at the ratings for the Android version of the apps is every banking app gets exactly four stars out of five. It’s almost eerie how they all have the same rating, but clearly four out of five is a pretty good one, if not a top-tier rating compared to other apps. Each app has been reviewed thousands of times, with the TD ap receiving the most reviews – 17,982 – and RBC receiving 13,765. BMO had the fewest user reviews with 5,591.

It seems that all the banks agree that users want to use their mobile apps to complete many of the same functions they would via a website. All apps offered the ability to view account details, pay bills, transfer money between accounts, send Interac e-mail money transfers, and find a nearby branch or ATM. There were a few points of differentiation in features offered. For example RBC, TD, and Scotiabank offered some investing capacity such as buying or trading stocks, ETFs, or GICs. Both BMO and Scotiabank offer travel notifications so customers can prevent their credit cards from being flagged as suspicious when they travel abroad. BMO is the only app to offer booking an in-person appointment. Scotiabank is the only bank to have developed support for an Android Wear device on top of its app.

When it comes to mobile payments, every bank except for BMO is offering a tap-to-pay feature with Android smartphones carrying an NFC-enabled SIM card. CIBC is the only one of those four banks to separate mobile payments out into a separate app.

Then you have some differences in what payment cards are supported for mobile payments. RBC allows its Visa or Interac card to be used; Scotiabank only allows Visa credit cards, and TD allows either its Visa or Mastercard credit cards to be added.

Harsh critics use iOS

Ratings for banking apps on iOS were lower overall. RBC and CIBC fare the best of the bunch, each receiving an average rating of 3.5 out of five. There were also fewer reviews completed by iOS users. TD was the leader in number of reviews again for iOS, with 7,460. CIBC was second for iOS, with 5,609 reviews.

There’s also an alternate rating available on iOS for the “current version” of the app. But these probably don’t mean much as all the banks recently updated their apps for iOS 9 and there are only a handful of reviews counting towards the rating.

Again, we see that every bank is covering the transactional staples of viewing account details, paying bills, Interac e-transfers, etc. The same banks that offered investing options on the Android app are doing the same via the iOS app.

Because Apple hasn’t allowed developers to touch its secure element for the purpose of mobile payments, none of the banks can offer mobile payments on iOS devices. No doubt this is a chip that Apple is holding back from third parties as it looks to drive up use of its Apple Pay service.

More banks are supporting the Apple Watch than Android Wear devices. Scotiabank, CIBC, and TD all offer support for the companion device.

On newer Apple devices, banks can also offer the ability to sign in with Touch ID, so users can use their fingerprint to unlock the app in lieu of entering a password. So far only BMO is offering this, but judging by some of the user comments left in the reviews, it would be a popular feature for other banks to add.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Brian Jackson
Brian Jacksonhttp://www.itbusiness.ca
Editorial director of IT World Canada. Covering technology as it applies to business users. Multiple COPA award winner and now judge. Paddles a canoe as much as possible.

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