1/2015

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Pocket Bank: World’s best mobile banking apps are made in Oulu

If I were to say I go to the bank to pay my bills, I would probably sound old-fashioned. If I also were to say I visit the bank to check my account, I would sound like a luddite. Don’t I have a phone? Of course I do, and I use it to check my account almost on a daily basis. As a matter of fact, I am so used to handling my bank account on my phone that it feels it has always been this way – but of course, mobile banking is something quite new.

Mobility and security

“The mobile revolution started just three, four years ago, and the change has been really fast. Today, the gap between website services and mobile app services is practically nonexistent, and the trend is toward further mobility”, says Jukka Parkkinen, Head of Application Development at OP Financing Group. “With the development of new mobile banking apps, we discarded the idea of just transferring the standard banking services to the mobile space as such. As mobile phones are with you all the time, it is imperative that we look at the whole service from the user perspective. For instance, how do you convert a paper trail where everything has to be personally signed to digital service?” So far, it seems that they have succeeded pretty well, with the OP Pivo app being third in usage rating in Finland, just after Facebook and Tinder.

The development department does not do everything by themselves. For instance, the software security is outsourced from Finnish companies. “We have quite a few collaboration projects with local companies, and we have been talking about a joint research venture with the University of Oulu, which should start pretty soon.” In just three short years, the growth has been rapid and not only counted in swipes on a phone. The development department started with approximately 30 people in November 2011, and amidst all the skepticism and doubt they received during their first years following the launch, the department has steadily increased staff to about 150 people. There were a number of options for the location, but apart from the obvious – healthy business platforms in the region, strong university and the technological talent in the region – one driver was actually the physical distance. “By being placed further away from Helsinki we sought the agility and flexibility that we saw as an important aspect. We’re actually pretty independent as a business unit, and that is a good thing for us.”

Oulu is the place to be in

Although the apps development started from the banking perspective, the company also has insurance, real estate and lately, health care units, which all are under digitalization processes. With the expansion in business and client expectations of digital services, it is imperative for the company to have top quality applications that are not just easy to use, but also seen as trustworthy and secure. Jukka Parkkinen says that the past three years have proven the location choice correct – the department is acknowledged as a vital part of the financing group’s business, and the quality of their work is top notch. “When we first started, the OP Financing Group’s managing director was at the opening, saying that we now need to build the best banking apps in Finland. I just replied to him that actually, we’re going to build the best banking apps in the world”, Parkkinen says, smiling.