Financial security critical in online banking, says FNB

2013-09-26 14:00
FNB has rebuilt its online banking platform to improve user functionality. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

FNB has rebuilt its online banking platform to improve user functionality. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - Financial security in an online environment is critical, especially as smart devices make their presence felt in the market, a retail bank has said.

"It's much easier building an API if you are Twitter, for example, but when it comes to people's money, we believe we have a duty of care so we are not in principle opposed to doing things like we did with 22seven, or in the business world we actually do it with our accounting solution," FNB CEO Michael Jordaan told News24.

The bank was the first in the country to produce a smartphone application, and offers several technological channels to interact with customers.

Jordaan said that there was much debate whether FNB was indeed a bank or morphing into a technology company.

"We've also realised that the way technology is changing in the world - and a lot of technology is disruptive, it completely changes your business model - we have to be more than just a bank," he said.


The digital banking solutions are designed to be convenient and technology is viewed as both an enabler, as well differentiator in the sector.

"Electronic Banking as a whole is a priority for FNB. We offer a variety of electronic banking options, including the FNB Banking App for Smartphones and a bespoke Banking App for Tablet devices. Aside from being more cost efficient, electronic banking gives our clients convenience in that they have anytime, anywhere banking  at their fingertips," said Farren Roper, FNB Mobile and Connect head of ISP and Business Operations.

FNB has around 600 000 active customers who use the banking application and the bank has delivered additional apps to augment the banking experience.

Jordaan, who will step down as CEO this year, said that it was a key strategy at the bank to ensure that banking ecosystem was robust.

"So our thinking is to build an ecosystem around that core [banking] offering, and that ecosystem must be so helpful and so convenient to the customer, so that even if our core business is attacked, that you can also compete there."


One key concern with online financial transactions remains security.

Security firm Kaspersky Lab recently identified that malware was specifically being designed to steal personal and financial information.


"The notorious Zbot/ZeuS spyware programme alone accounted for 23% of all malicious attachments and targeted online banking service users logging in on a Windows system or using an Android mobile device," Kaspersky said in its quarterly report on cyber attacks.

FNB said that security was critical to the integrity of the online banking process, and co-operation with third party vendors increased the risk to customers.

Jordaan conceded that cybercrime was a risk, but said that the bank's experience showed that a significant percentage of the crime was opportunistic, despite the sophisticated networks in operation.

"The reality is actually far more simple: It's a really basic guy who preys on errors that people make out there. In other words, somebody who just hands out a PIN... or logs on to a website that is really not the correct website," he said.


Common scams used to fool South Africans include e-mails saying that you have won the lottery or that you are due a Sars refund. Criminals have even taken to sending SMSes that indicate that there has been fraudulent activity on your bank account.

Clicking on these links could infect a user's computer or potentially compromise a bank account.

Jordaan said that banks have to ensure a level of functionality balanced with security.

"We can technically increase the security to fight all those things, but in increasing the security, you make it less and less convenient to customers."

- Follow Duncan on Twitter
Read more on:    kaspersky lab  |  fnb  |  mobile  |  cybercrime

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