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Banks are upgrading their mobile applications to make it easier for customers to complete most transactions without having to visit branches with the apps emerging as the most preferred customer-interface for lenders after the pandemic.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has repeatedly nudged banks to strengthen their information technology infrastructure and recently took the unprecedented step of asking India’s largest private lender, HDFC Bank Ltd, to halt new digital banking initiatives till it fixes problems that have caused three outages in its e-banking services since 2018.

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State-run Bank of Baroda (BoB), for instance, is looking to redesign its mobile app, which had 11.43 million downloads on Google Play Store at the end of March. The bank is hiring an agency to identify the difficulties faced by customers before redesigning the app.

“The bidder will interact and conduct workshops with stakeholders to understand, compile and collate pain points with a solution. Stakeholders may include customers, bank business departments, bank functional teams and control and support functions," BoB said in a document on its website.

Millions of customers are transacting through mobile apps as cheap smartphones and mobile data packages have made the services more accessible.

Mobile apps have become the touchpoint of choice for millions of consumers to manage finances, and 70% online adults with a bank account do their banking on an app or website using smartphones, technology researcher Forrester said in a 3 September report. Mobile apps of most major banks, except ICICI Bank Ltd, lag in terms of full functionality, Forrester said in the report.

“Banks can win in mobile by reducing the cognitive load on the customer. This means identifying customers’ top tasks on the app and prioritizing features and design updates that support these," it said.

Meanwhile, ICICI Bank recently allowed the customers of rival banks to use its app. This is expected to help the bank expand its customer base by allowing new users to open savings accounts digitally and use other services.

On 7 December, Anup Bagchi, executive director of ICICI Bank, said the bank realized customers are tired of using multiple apps for different purposes and they want to know if a single app can take care of all banking and payments needs.

Meanwhile, India’s largest lender State Bank of India, which had said it will take a year for its Yono app to be made available to other banks, is now said to be working to roll it out much sooner.

Under the original plan, the bank wanted to hive-off Yono into a separate subsidiary to monetize it.

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