A TD Bank CIO discusses mobile opportunities, Apple Pay and more

Jeff Martin has a challenge for all those people who assume everyone now does most of their banking on a smartphone, PC, tablet or landline phone.

“If you’re bored on a Sunday, go to a TD branch. If you think branches are dead, it will blow your mind,” Martin, vice-president and CIO of Direct Channels Technology Solutions at TD Group, told the Mobile Enterprise Canada Summit in Toronto on Wednesday. “We do not think we will be closing all our branches.”

At the same time, Martin told the conference that TD is making major changes to the way it thinks about its physical presence, the way it gets in front of customers and how it provides the technology to support it all. As non-traditional payment providers like Apple move into the financial services space with Apple Pay, he also suggested IT leaders need to recognize the regulatory and other differences between Canada and the U.S.

According to Martin, the traditional view of TD is probably based on the buildings it owns. For example, the bank has more than 2,500 branch locations and has spent the last several years expanding into Eastern seaboard in the U.S. More recently, firms like TD have been talking about paying attention to the “omni-channel,” where they need to have ways to interact across physical, digital and social lines. It’s not just enough to have multiple touch points, though, according to Martin.

“Our biggest focus area is to stop thinking about channels, and more about the customer,” he said. “How does the customer journey begin and end? They’re trying to get to a certain destination, and it’s likely to start out mobile. We want to be able to support them in a comfortable way across all of our channels. Everything is digital, even the branch. Yes, there’s a person there, but they’re using digital technology.”

‘The bank branch can be everywhere’

Martin discussed a pilot project which has been running for several months now in which TD has armed regular branch employees with tablets and set up pop-up-style booths at shopping malls and even within businesses. So far, TD has seen five times the sales per employee than it would traditionally see at a branch. Employees were also selling 2.5 products per customer on average and 65 percent of the customers stopping by such locations are new to TD.

Based on those numbers, Martin said TD plans to expand the pilot to the point where “this will just be how we do things,” he said. “Customers really liked the idea of interacting with a tablet in a friendly way and a human who’s helping them. . . the bank branch doesn’t have to be the bank branch that you think of today. The branch can be right here. It can be everywhere.”

Apple Pay: Potential problems

Martin said TD is closely watching developments such as Apple Pay, a mobile payment service Apple launched along with its latest smartphones last month which will use a combination of near-field communications (NFC) and apps to secure and process retail transactions.

He pointed out, though, that the environment in the U.S. is such that banks and credit card issuers can make money from debit transactions, which is not the case for Canadian financial institutions. That’s why he predicted that Apple Pay, which launches this month in the U.S. is “at least a year away” from coming here.

“There are a lot of regulatory things they will have to work out,” he said, pointing out that Canadians are not without their options. “We have a mobile wallet. We can do what Apple Pay does. You could have done it a few months ago.”

Whether it’s Apple or a more traditional player such as TD, Martin said security will remain the No. 1 challenge in bringing more effective mobile experiences to customers.

“With this whole Shellshock thing, I was on the phone multiple times over the weekend to make sure everything was updated, that everything was patched,” he said, referring to a bug in the open source Bash component that is used in many applications. “It doesn’t end.”

The Mobile Enterprise Canada Summit runs through Thursday.

photo credit: Ed Yourdon via photopin cc

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