We won't dump USSD banking - FNB

FNB. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
FNB. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Cape Town – First National Bank (FNB) says its launch of a new technology system will not see customers on cellphone banking being dumped.

The bank this month has announced that its new banking API (application program interface) will drive its interface across multiple devices as South Africans increasingly adopt smartphones.

However, those on USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) or cellphone banking will not be left behind.

“USSD is still one of our largest platforms and most of our users actually use USSD. However, what we also realised is that in the market at the moment, if we look at current sales trends of devices, it’s only smartphones that are really being sold,” Sahil Mungar, head of Marketing for Digital Banking at FNB, told Fin24.

The new banking application platform is expected to allow FNB to deliver content as well as a similar look and feel across banking and web platforms.

“You may have noticed a change in our look and feel, but it’s not just about look and feel. What we’ve really created is a platform that gives us access to features and that we would like to believe are future proof.”

Evolution

FNB currently has around 1.5 million customers on its banking application versus more than 2 million on USSD.

But smartphones running the banking application offer significant advantages over the text-based USSD system, explained FNB.

“From the smart devices we’ve got contextual, geo-awareness, bigger screen, UI [user interface] – we can have longer transaction flows. So from that perspective, USSD development continues from now until there’s one customer left, but what we also know is everyone’s next device is a smartphone, or a smart-enabled device,” Mungar said.

While FNB's new banking API is designed to focus on graphic-enabled content, Mungar said that the bank will evolve the text-based interface to match the smart device application.

“What you’ll find is USSD will go through slight iterations – not to create customer angst – but bits and pieces will also align with wording; in terms of placement. From that perspective, we’re really focused on where the market’s going.”

According to research firm Gartner, worldwide smartphone sales growth was slower at 9.7% in 2015. Huawei increased its sales by 53% thanks to demand for lower-cost handsets, according to Gartner.


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