The generational shift placing millennials as the biggest group of earners globally put financial institutions on a new mobile-focused trajectory, Rocky Scopelliti, Global Strategy Leader, Telstra, said.

Speaking at the Mobile World Congress session Disruption in Digital Finance, alongside executives from PayPal, CaixaBank, Kasisto and Citi Bank, Scopelliti said banks and payment providers must embrace innovation and deliver services using consumers’ preferred channels to remain relevant.

Scopelliti noted “innovation must come from the outside” in an era where “financial institutions have had to move away from controlling everything.”

This sentiment echoed throughout the panel debate, with CaixaBank highlighted as an example of a traditional bank now using new technologies to offer greater flexiblility for its customers. As a compliment to its standard mobile banking platform, the company launched a product designed specifically for a younger demographic – ImaginBank.

The service is only accessible using wireless devices and includes an m-wallet payment service for the Spanish market. CaixaBank CIO Pere Nebot said the company’s mobile-centric strategy was a reaction to a trend which saw the proportion of customers visiting a branch fall from 21 per cent in 2004 to eight per cent in 2014.

Continuing the conversation
Another prominent theme of the session was the use of conversational commerce for banking services. These platforms can allow voice assistants and other chat bots to offer basic account features, including money transfer and balance checks.

Dror Oren, co-founder and VP of product at AI software provider Kasisto, explained the development of intelligent commerce platforms embedded into chat apps enabled banks to develop closer relationships with customers and provide services using the platform of their choice.

Although many voice assitants are able to perform limited functions, he warned these platforms often fall down when follow-up queries are submitted. “A lot of the virtual assistants are glorified search engines,” he said. “But if you follow-up, there’s a lack of contextual awareness.” He added the new platforms can “continue the conversation” and execute more complex transactions and requests.

Conversational Commerce was a major theme during last week’s MWC event, with a keynote on the subject held on Wednesday. Content from the keynote lecture is available here with executives from Twilio, KiK, Boxever and Line represented.

The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members.