Digital banking has gained so much popularity in recent years that it’s rendered the notion of actually visiting a bank branch rather quaint. Thanks to banking apps, we can transfer money, pay bills and track our expenses with a few quick taps of our fingers on our smartphone. And now with the wearable tech trend sweeping the globe, we will soon be able to take care of our finances from our wrists.

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Let’s examine a few key players in the new fusion of banking and wearables, and how they are changing the fintech landscape.

Westpac New Zealand

Westpac New Zealand has thrown itself into the wearable banking market with enthusiasm, developing an app for Sony Smartwatch and Google Glass – watch a demonstration of how their Cash Tank app works here. Their experiments with Google Glass uncovered some unexpected and useful feedback: that customers were largely uncomfortable using voice commands about their finances in public places. ‘What we’ve found is that people want to be able to swipe and touch rather than have voice commands, which was a really interesting insight, because people are quite personal and particular about their finances,’ said Simon Pomeroy, chief digital officer for Westpac New Zealand in an article for American Banker.

Nationwide Building Society

Nationwide Building Society has always been at the front of technical innovation – the first to launch internet banking in the UK, the first to launch video meetings for mortgage applications, and now the first bank to release wearable banking apps for Apple Watch and Android smartwatches. The app is an extension of their Quick Balance function, which allows the user to check their account balance by swiping the screen. This feature is now the standard for most wearable banking apps.

Misys Financial Software

It’s not just banks; financial software companies are also hopping on the wearable train. Misys Financial Software released the prototype for their banking app for the Apple Watch back in March – the first third-party technology vendor to put out an app. Named Misys FusionBanking Essence BankTime, their app allows the user to monitor their balance, review past transactions, execute transactions and receive instant notifications of unusual activity or special offers.

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC)

Toronto-based CIBC became the first bank to develop an Apple Watch banking app capable of transferring funds. They released this wearable extension of their smartphone app back in May, which also features account checking, transaction details and find-a-branch functionality. The transfer capability not only allows for transfer between CIBC banking accounts, it also accommodates CIBC credit card accounts.

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A global banking revolution

Whether you support this wearable trend or not, there’s no denying that it’s here to stay. Banks are quickly realising that they need to adapt in order to keep their customers and stay up to speed: ‘Historically, banks have been some of the richest repositories of data – but also the least likely to do something innovative with it,’ writes Aman Narain, global head of digital banking at Standard Chartered, in an article for Banking Technology. But as he points out later on, this is all changing – and quickly. Thanks to Apple Watch’s instant popularity after its debut earlier this year, banks are starting to realise the value in wearables, and many are developing apps to reflect this change.

 

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