Security + data + ux= better mobile banking

6th September 2016

Today (Tuesday, Sep 6th) I’ll be presenting a lightning talk at iOSdevUK where Starling are a platinum sponsor.

In the past 20 years or so there has been a significant shift in banking from paper to digital. Within that period, mobile phone usage has increased significantly, and banks have attempted to keep up with that pace of change.

However, this has been a difficult progression for many as technological innovation moves considerably faster than banking senior management. Further to this, the diversity in the customer segments means they have to provide services for people who do not, will not, or cannot use a mobile device for their banking.

At Starling Bank, we’re focussing solely on providing the best possible user experience for mobile users – all via one product interface. That gives us a unique opportunity to put all of our focus into making the most of all the features of that complex device in your pocket.


The two major mobile operating systems (Android & iOS) have both invested a significant amount of time and money in securing your mobile phone. Apple’s iPhones, for instance, contain hardware built to withstand both software and hardware attacks. Even if your phone is stolen, data which is stored with the highest level of security will be secured from prying eyes. Even government agencies struggle to get access to this data without considerable expense, so this is generally out of the realm of your casual hacker.

When combined with communication encryption and server-side security, your confidential information is far more secure than a traditional website. In particular, we can ensure that a request to pay my mate £100.00 can only have originated on my mobile phone, and not from her logging in to my account on her laptop at home.

#User Experience

Many banks have opted to transition from a website to their mobile app using hybrid applications. Hybrid apps have the benefit of being relatively platform-agnostic and being fast to deploy to. However, the experience for the user is potentially a lot worse. Though both are mobile devices, Android and iOS devices behave in different ways; they have different mechanisms for page traversal and different design styles. Using an application which is designed as a hybrid makes the experience for the user jarring and, sometimes, clumsy.

At Starling, we’ve opted for building native applications for both iOS and Android devices. With this we get an experience more consistent with other apps on those devices. We also get access to all the features of those phones, not just the ones that have been exposed to us by an intermediate third party.

This is not to say that building native apps is the best option for everybody. In fact, some have argued the cost of doing this may well be too high. However, when you differentiate yourself on your user experience you have to access the device directly.

Media labs has an excellent discussion around this.

#Information Proximity

The distance from you to your data is approaching zero. Historically, to get access to your bank account you needed to go to your branch during business hours. Closed for lunch – sorry! With the advent of telephone and internet banking this was reduced to where your landline or desktop PC was located.

Mobile devices have placed this data in your pocket, on your wrist and (if you’re a real geek) on your glasses. The immediacy of access to that information is now critical to users. As a user I want to know that money has been withdrawn from my account when it happens, not at the end of the month when I check my statement. I want to know how I’m spending my money, what my projected lunchtime spend will be for this month and what my likely balance will be at the end of the month. With that information in close proximity to me, I can change my behaviour and understand my finances better.

If this vision appeals to you, sign up now to be amongst the first invited to open a Starling bank account later this year.

Better yet, come say hi to me and the team if you too are enjoying iOSdevUK 6 in sunny Aberystwyth!