This week’s buzzphrase: Financial AppStore. But what is it?

It’s funny how fast memes take root in the collective consciousness. From lolcats (why??) to Fenton/Benton (if you’re British) to dancing like a Gangnam jockey (1.3bn views and counting) — one day they’re nowhere, and the next they’re part of the landscape.

In the rarefied world of single-dealer platforms, the meme du jour is Financial AppStore. First sighted (I think) in the form of the Deutsche Bank App Market a year and a half ago, in the last six months it has become a seriously buzzy phrase among banks looking for an e-commerce edge.

The problem is, though, that while a lot of banks seem interested in having a Finanical AppStore, no two of them seem to agree on what it actually is. After the topic came up recently in independent conversations with three global banks, all of whom had been advised by consultants that they should be building “an AppStore,” I called each of them back and asked them to define exactly what they meant by the term. To my slight surprise, I got three very different answers.

One of them explained, with great certainty, that a Financial AppStore is a collection of basic components — grids, blotters, tickets, charts, etc — out of which which users can assemble apps, on demand, in any way they please. The second said it is a collection of complete HTML5 applications focussed on different user segments, of which a user will typically load just one at a time. And the third said it is a collection of complete HTML5 applications focussed on different user activities, several of which will normally share the user’s screen and interoperate with each other at any given time.

All these are possible implementations, but they differ fundamentally in their value to the user, their value to the bank, and the technical challenges in their implementation. At Caplin, we have long been building the first two as a matter of routine (although without using the term AppStore, in most cases) and we have trialled several interesting approaches to the third, each with clear advantages and disadvantages. It’s worrying, however, to see a term being bandied about without any apparent agreement as to what it means.

There’s an awful lot to say about this topic, and I think I can feel a white paper coming on. In the meantime, I’d be very interested in comments from readers on what you think a “Financial AppStore” is, or should be — and whether you think it’s what users actually want.

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