by Edward Qualtrough

Nationwide digital chief envisions ‘wearable banking’

May 29, 20143 mins
Financial Services IndustryIT StrategyMobile

Nationwide’s head of digital believes wearable technology will become dominant in the next 18 months, and that smartwatches can be payment method of the future.

Daryl Wilkinson, the building society’s “digitally adventurous” Group Head of Digital Development, was speaking to CIO UK about his experiences with the Pebble Smartwatch and the mutual’s digital strategy and customer-led innovation a month before it announced record pre-tax profits and committed further investments to digital banking.

He said: “People asking what’s the point in a smartwatch are the same people who said that about the iPad or the smartphone.

“Naturally we’ll see lots of experiments until something finally sticks, but wearables will eventually become dominant in the next 18 months; the difference will be an Apple or Motorola combining a really beautiful experience with a really beautiful design.

“By wearing this I understand it, and I can understand the bridge from the iPhone to this and it’s a very, very narrow step to take.

“It’s absolutely going to happen – this watch will be a payment method; it will be touchscreen like an iPod nano on your wrist.”

As the building society announced pre-tax annual profits of £677 million, a four-fold increase on the previous year, chief executive Graham Beale – who Wilkinson said was fully committed to Nationwide’s digitisation – said that the building society was in a strong position to respond to the pace of change.

“Member behaviours and expectations are changing, with an increasing use of internet and mobile channels, and we will ensure that we respond accordingly,” Beale said.

“Over the past five years we have renewed our infrastructure through the delivery of a new banking platform, new data centre, new payments platform, new website and a mobile banking service.

“While these programmes have improved customer service and increased technical resilience, it is likely that over the next few years the pace of change will speed up, with an increasing number of smaller initiatives to enable Nationwide to operate in an evolving digital society.”

Wilkinson told CIO that mobile banking is already happening on smartwathces, which are only a few tweaks or hacks away from being digital payment methods.

He said: “I get my texts, WhatsApp messages and Tweets to my watch. I can control my iPod on my iPhone from here.

“In terms of banking, I get text alerts here, my contactless payments can be on here. It’s not yet NFC-enabled but I can quite easily make it so by melting off the chip and sticking it on the back.”