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HSBC’s absolutely rubbish business banking app (and its’ brilliant RBS competitor)

Screen Shot 2012 03 21 at 14 59 26

Do any of the readers have company accounts with HSBC?

Have you tried their HSBC Business app?

I have no issue whatsoever telling you that it’s the ugliest piece of rubbish I’ve seen from a multi billion dollar company, ever.

I wonder precisely which executive approved this application for publication?

It’s horrific. Utterly horrific. When I was forced to use it in anger on Friday standing outside the Apple Store, I felt like a total arse.

Being forced to use the app to make a transfer standing on Regent Street has been the mobile ‘low light’ of 2012.

HSBC’s Executive Team clearly has no idea which end of a mobile phone to use for speaking. If they did, they’d have never allowed this abomination — complete with Microsoft Word v2 clipart graphics — out into the public. They should have taken one look at it and handed the team involved a black plastic bag each, telling them to gather their stuff and get off the premises within 25 minutes.

HSBC clearly let their security idiots run everything.

They’ve deployed a native app which is basically a flipping mobile website. There’s little difference between logging into HSBC’s Business banking site on the web and using the app. Zero thought. Absolutely ZERO thought has gone into this. You type in your banking username. You type in the password. Then — NO FLIPPING KIDDING — you need to reach for your bollocky RSA key thing to type in a random number.

Once you’re in, you then have to navigate around the mobile website like a monkey.

There is no reason to have an app. What’s the point if you’re not going to make things easy? It was such an outrageous experience that it’s moved me firmly into exit territory. We need to swap banks.

I don’t mind security. I positively encourage smart security. I want my bank to take all necessary steps to protect me.

But I want to bank on my mobile.

I can’t do that because we’ve only got one RSA key for the account that I usually leave at home. So if I’m out and about, I can’t do anything.

Which, I suppose, is pretty secure.


The point is, you expect your average billion dollar finance institution to employ some geniuses to think properly about security and mobile usability. I don’t expect them to do a cut-and-paste job and call it a mobile app.

Perhaps the HSBC mobile banking team are ultra smart. I don’t know, I haven’t met them. Perhaps it’s their senior management that are at fault. But perhaps I should at the very least try calling HSBC customer service and make my views known!

The end result, however, is that HSBC’s mobile banking team — and the board executive tasked with looking after them — now look like a bunch of muppets: Because Royal Bank of Scotland/NatWest has released their Business banking app.

And it blows HSBC’s efforts away.

Screen Shot 2012 03 21 at 14 59 05

If you’re a NatWest personal customer, I strongly encourage you to download the NatWest Business Banking app. It’ll work on your personal account you see. Setup takes just a few seconds. The RBS team (some of whom I’ve met) thought long and hard about how they structured the entire user interface to make registration and day-to-day usage an absolute dream.

Crucially, the executive team in charge of the business banking app didn’t give up when the security plods raised their inevitable objections. If you can login to your NatWest account on the web with a userid, PIN number and password, shouldn’t you be able to setup your mobile banking service with those details? Yes. Setup takes maybe 30 seconds maximum.

You then set a PIN — that’s all you need to get back into the app. So every time you want to check your balances or send money, a five digit PIN gets you straight into your accounts. It’s actually faster than going via the web. HSBC, in contrast, require you to go through their ridiculously painful logon process EVERY time you run the app. I actually had to do it three times because I was checking other stuff on my phone at the same time. Annoying.

The crucial difference between the NatWest personal banking app and the Business one is the statement section. (The Personal team obviously haven’t got the memo about the importance of this for end users yet.)

The statement functionality in this new business app is simply phenomenal. What’s even better is that it works for your personal account too. Right now the personal app will give you perhaps 5 entries in super-summary form. This typically leaves me wondering what the hell most of the entries actually MEAN. In the Business app, they’ve cracked it. They show you a full entry for every item. It’s genius. Just tap on each item to get the date, transaction type, identity, location and value.

The rest of NatWest’s Business app functionality echoes that of their Personal one — so super easy transfers (done in two-taps and a swipe) and the ability to easily swipe to get to your other account balances.

In short, NatWest has nailed HSBC to the wall.

My mistake for continuing to bank with HSBC. I think we’ll need to do a change soon.

I should also point out that I haven’t checked any other business banking apps, so I’m keen to hear about your experiences with them.


  1. Ewan, you’ll find that all the very good banking apps (RBS, Natwest) are produced by Monitise¬†¬†who specifically know about making mobile apps as well as having the infrastructure to support the banks systems. So it pays to outsource these things… P.s I don’t work there, just saying. Search for Monitise Group on the App Store, there will be a few.

  2. Actually I think Monitise provide the bulk of the design which is why it looks nice so there is a more limited input needed from the bank. I suspect the HSBC one was specified by someone who normally does that for PC applications and then written internally by someone who normally writes PC applications.

  3. The team at Monitise have done a great job on the RBS app. Yesterday an update was released to allow the transfer of money using faster payments to pre registered accounts (much like Pingit with a few minor differences) and I am told that you will be able to add payees fairly soon as well. 

  4. Hi, yes the app was built by Monitise in terms of software development.¬†However the whole customer journey,¬†UX¬†and workflow was designed by the mobile team within RBS with intense focus on the customer experience. Based on Ewan’s views, it’s clear that this focus pays off!

  5. Raymond, I’d like to state that the teams at Monitise and RBS have all¬†done a great job. Both teams work hand in hand¬†combining the platform and dev experience from Monitise and the deep understanding of the¬†customer by the RBS team.¬†It shows in the quality they are producing.

  6. If you have 35.000 GBP on your savings account I really should consider marrying you. ūüėČ

    No, seriously: do you feel it’s safe to hand out that kind of personal information? Because that’s a lot of money and someone might be tempted to do something stupid. Monitise’s own screen shots @ App Store show a more modest balance of 356,62 GBP, wouldn’t it be safer to use those?


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