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Going Mobile: A Critical Balancing Act

September 01, 2015, 07:00 AM

Over the last few years the equipment finance industry, along with just about every sector of the global economy, has experienced rapid change driven both by the fallout of the global financial crisis and the rise of disruptive digital technologies.  Historically slow to embrace new technologies, lessors have in recent years increased their investment in technology to help drive operational efficiency and respond to shifting customer demand. As a member of the ELFA Operations & Technology Committee, I have seen this first-hand, with some of the pioneering projects that equipment finance companies have submitted to highlight technology innovation within their organizations.

Yet mobile is an area that still remains well behind the curve.

Mobile technologies are an everyday part of employees’ lives in their experience as consumers. Employee demand has driven “Bring Your Own Device” policies in IT, but it’s not easy to adopt existing business applications and technologies to the mobile world. Beyond this, within the enterprise, there are other constraints and considerations at play – available budget, resources, skills, and competing strategic priorities are all factors – mobile strategies can’t be considered in a vacuum and rolled-out overnight.

In fact, the most recent Business Technology Performance Index report from Capgemini shows that the leasing business as a whole has been quite slow to adopt advanced digital technologies with 65% of respondents yet to implement any mobile or other digital transformation strategies.

Are your critical systems “mobile-ready?”

One impediment for many equipment finance providers may be the ability – or lack thereof – for existing systems to support mobile strategies. Earlier I mentioned competing strategic priorities, and for many businesses their first priority is evaluating, and perhaps replacing, existing systems.  Organizations should consider future needs and business channels when doing these evaluations, ensuring that technology investments in mission-critical systems, like origination and servicing solutions, have the proper architecture to support digital transformation initiatives.

The availability of mobile apps is certainly one obvious angle, but will your current platforms support mobile use without significant architecture investment? And will the mobile features be merely token gestures or will users be empowered to perform key tasks from their phones while they are on-the-go? For example, when it comes to entering critical data, processing deals, and making credit decisions, are your current (and future) mobile device standards supported, or would you be locked into one device ecosystem?

Responsive design principles in general are also important. Mobile apps are designed to deliver critical features to remote users, but what if more extensive functionality is needed. Can your employees access the system’s full user interface from a tablet or phone in a way that is user-friendly?

Lastly, can you incorporate system functionality and data into your other digital channels? For example, can you combine data or features from multiple internal systems, origination and servicing, into a single mobile app that you can offer to your own end customers for self-service? How about through custom portals for lessees or for dealer partners? A robust and secure web services architecture is critical to support other digital initiatives beyond rolling out mobile apps to your employees.

But, will your security officer be as happy as your employees?

The growth of mobile computing has been so successful that has it attracted the attention of cybercriminals and hackers. There have been some titanic mobile hacks, like the Stagefright vulnerability, which allowed Android phones to be compromised just by receiving a malicious text message. These kinds of hacks show that underlying mobile platforms still need some shoring up and additional examination. 

Ray Pompon, Security Director at Linedata Capitalstream, recommends that organizations understand and architect for the untrustworthy environment of mobile when building mobile solutions. Specifically, mobile solutions should request, download, and save only the minimum data necessary. If data is transmitted or stored by a mobile device, it should be encrypted. Since the mobile platform is suspect, the server the mobile solution connects with should be doing all the security heavy-lifting, including authenticating the user, filtering out potential attacks in transmitted data, and enforcing software updates on the remote mobile device. 

Going Mobile:  Can you afford not to?

There are a lot of important considerations including security, and your organization needs to evaluate all of them – available budget, resources, skills, and competing strategic priorities – and work to develop an implementation roadmap to support mobile strategies. And, most importantly, if your origination and servicing solutions do not have the proper architecture to support digital transformation initiatives, then it may be time to re-evaluate and replace your existing systems.

Bill Kramer
Senior Vice President of Product Management | Linedata Lending & Leasing
Bill Kramer is Senior Vice President of Product Management at Linedata Lending & Leasing. He is responsible for defining and executing the Linedata Capitalstream product roadmap to support the company’s strategic objectives in loan and lease origination, and for enterprise portfolio and risk management, world-wide.

Kramer’s team is composed of seasoned Product Managers with direct industry experience in lending, leasing, financial statement analysis, and finance operations. He joined the Capitalstream team in 2003.
Comments From Our Members

Joseph Hall
Thanks for the very thoughtful and informative blog. The author is correct: leasing firms were reluctant to address the lease financing opportunity of mobility. This is definitely changing now as lessors come up to speed on the concept of leasing tablets and cell phones. Addressing the security issues are a critical element to success. The end of lease issues include data erasure and protecting client information. Joseph Hall HOBI
9.1.2015 @ 11:12 AM
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