If you build it they will come, and other insights from Star CEO Jennifer Sun into the design and development of the company's new mobile app
Back in July, we sat down for an in-depth discussion with StarCompliance CEO Jennifer Sun about mobile applications as they relate to compliance: specifically, the current level of acceptance of mobile apps in the industry. The determination? "Right now," said Jennifer, "I see a large disparity in the acceptance of mobile. In theory clients like the idea, and know they need to move in that direction because employees are demanding it, but in practice many organizations have not figured out their mobile strategy and how to deploy it."
Importantly, a counter determination was also made: mobile is inevitably coming to compliance on a large scale, as it has for so many other business-to-consumer and business-to-business tech spaces. And with the September 2019 launch of its new mobile app—STAR Mobile—Star is betting big on that inevitability. This week, we continue our discussion with Jennifer on the dawning age of mobile compliance, and find out why she thinks Star is ready for it.
Last time, we discussed how Star wasn't the first mover in the mobile compliance space, and how there can be advantage in that, i.e., when you're the second mover, you have the chance to do it better. How do you think Star has done that?
"Once we decided to build a mobile app, we asked ourselves, what kind of mobile app do we want to build? We surveyed the market and realized that the few employee-conflict mobile apps available were basic, one-size-fits-all entry screens. They looked good, but the functionality wasn't there. Our clients choose STAR desktop because of its configurable and customizable workflows. So we spent our time developing a mobile app that provides the same key desktop functionality our users have come to rely on, starting with personal trading and gifts and entertainment. So if clients already use those two products on STAR desktop, their experience on STAR Mobile will be essentially the same, which makes for easy adoption across all end users.”
"It’s important to spend time evaluating all the functionality compliance software can provide, and that now includes a thorough evaluation of a vendor’s ability to meet the demands and needs of a mobile workforce. We want potential clients to take deeper dives into all of our software, including STAR Mobile. If they do, and they actually put competitors' mobile products up against ours, they'll see that the same thoughtfulness that went into our desktop app also went into STAR Mobile."
In our last chat we touched on user experience, particularly the user interface. You mentioned that a provider can have the best back-end system architecture and functionality, but if the user interface doesn't invite engagement, the app won't get used. Can we dive a bit deeper into that?
"We wanted people to want to engage with this app, so from the very start we took a differentiated approach. We hired a UI/UX designer with consumer experience to skin the app. From the start we wanted to stay away from a traditional look and feel, the kind you might expect from a standard financial app, in order to meet the visual expectations of today’s consumer. It's hard to argue that people don't naturally gravitate towards this kind of application; one of the reasons people are so glued to their phones is the applications are designed to be experientially inviting. We wanted the same with STAR Mobile."
"I can see myself and our sales engineers talking about this aspect of STAR Mobile in client meetings, and I feel like it's going to be a real differentiator. There are certain times when you have to take risks. We're making a bet on what our clients need before they come and tell us it's what they need—before they may even know it's what they need. These kinds of risks can be the scariest, but they're also the kind that can pay off the most handsomely. We said to ourselves, let's think about the end consumers; they might work in a financial institution, but they like the ease, the usability, and the look and feel of consumer apps the same as the rest of us."
Another way Star departed from the business-as-usual approach to app design was to skin STAR Mobile differently from STAR desktop. Why did you take this design route?
"The STAR Mobile skin is distinctly different from the desktop app, and we knew it had to be. When we began working on mobile, it soon became clear that the mobile app wasn't going to graphically mimic the desktop app, and I think that raised some eyebrows. Traditional thinking dictates that, if you build something new, it has to look like everything else, so you have consistency in look and feel. But that can force you down a path of old versus new—cutting you off from tools you could otherwise use, and hampering creativity and innovation."
"STAR Mobile is a brand new app and we wanted it to look like one. We wanted to use the newest, most innovative design and interface elements available. It did have to have certain sensibilities that were similar to STAR desktop, and thanks to our UI designer’s thoughtful approach—taking the best of the existing look and skillfully blending it with the new—STAR Mobile walks the tightrope between current generation Star products and next gen."
"And by stepping outside the box, and outside of our comfort zone, we've also elevated the look, feel, and user experience of the STAR desktop app, which is equally exciting. As a software provider, we can't be complacent. And now STAR Mobile is blazing a path for us—inspiring us to stay at the forefront of our industry. "
Finally, circling back around to the idea of how to get compliance departments on board with the idea of mobile compliance, can design make a difference?
"Yes. I'm convinced it can. If you poll a group of compliance officers and ask them in the abstract if they feel mobile compliance is a priority, you get mixed answers. If they haven't seen the application, and the case hasn't been properly made for how mobile compliance capabilities can increase overall participation in a firm's compliance program, they shy away. We often find it’s because their organization doesn’t have a precedent yet for using mobile in other areas of the firm. The clients who have seen our mobile app, and have institutional support for mobile, immediately get it."
"When our clients see STAR Mobile in action—the elegance of design and robustness of functionality—they have an aha moment, like I did. They realize that if they put this in front of their employees, they'll use it—which means more data in the system and more accuracy from it, which ultimately helps reduce risk. With STAR Mobile, seeing is believing."