Hunt noted that the trend toward real-time transaction banking, where, for example, a person can immediately transfer money from checking to savings using a mobile device, is being driven by the European market. In Europe, not only have many leading banks embraced real-time transactions, but they've also increased the efficiency of their core systems, reducing operating expenses.
For example, Spanish banks spend on average about 40 cents of every dollar in revenue on operating expenses; in the U.S., that avergae is 60 cents for every dollar of revenue.
"Real time transactional systems increase efficiency because they take out some of the back-end processing cost. If I can do everything at one point of contact, I'm not using additional personnel to mange it," Hunt said.
At the same time, core system change-outs are multi-year projects that run into hundreds of millions of dollars for large enterprises, Hunt said.
"You have to reduce costs 20% to 30% not just in year one but every year going forward to justify it," he said.
"In this new banking environment, having an efficient and highly flexible technology system is critical to outperforming the competition and meeting new regulatory requirements," Manolo Sanchez, CEO of BBVA Compass, said in a statement.
Bruce Voelker, managing director of Accenture's U.S. banking practice, said retail banking is under tremendous pressure to grow business outside of acquisitions. That means they must build customer-centric, not product-centric, applications.
"They're going after changes to core-banking applications and systems to allow them to be faster in time-to- market and smarter in the customer segments," Voelker said.
Accenture's Sindhu added that increased federal regulations have also put pressure on banks to upgrade systems. For example, last year the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, as well as Regulation E or the Electronic Funds Transfer Act, changed the amount of fees banks could charge on debit cards and for overdrafts. Some institutions lost as much as half of their fee income because of the changes, Sindhu said.
"One way to make up that money is by increasing their product share of the customer," he said, referring to the number of services a customer uses from the same bank.
With bank loyalty at an all-time low, institutions that add real-time mobile applications have an advantage to take business away from banks that don't offer the same services.
For example, real-time account money transfers and mobile check image capture are among the more popular features customers are looking to use, Sindhu said.