FNB labels Absa Twitter banking a ‘fad’

First National Bank. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
First National Bank. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Cape Town - First National Bank has labelled social media banking as a passing fad but the bank has affirmed that it's attempting to keep ahead of the technological curve.

Absa recently launched ChatBanking via Twitter as part of the Barclays-owned group’s drive to lead the local banking innovation space.

READ: Absa assures customers Twitter banking is safe

However, FNB said that innovation for its own sake was not part of their strategy.

“You can’t put all of your capacity to invest with things that are fads, but you must fiddle with fads. It creates the spunk – a bit of inspiration. For example: Smoke banking. We could invest in smoke banking - what is smoke banking? I don’t know, but who knows what that’s going to be?” FNB chief executive Jacques Celliers told Fin24.

“What is interesting is when you look at Twitter banking, or social media banking is: Have you set yourself up right so you can respond very fast?” he added.

Core deliverables

Absa has launched an Apple Watch application and a pilot biometric ATM programme in a bid to demonstrate its technological prowess.

Celliers said that digital banking should focus on core deliverables that make a difference to customers.

“What you need to do is you need to figure out where you put your resources and how respond appropriately to the changing games to stay relevant to your market.”

“What you want to do is to say: ‘Fiddle with things, but don’t let is consume you’,” he added.

FNB has 1.6 million online banking customers and two million banking application users conducting five million transactions per month.

READ: We won't dump USSD banking - FNB

The bank has also engaged in an expansion of its eBucks rewards programme where it will pay out cash rather than airtime for qualifying accounts.

Biometrics, Bitcoin

FNB has also paid its staff R42m in prizes for customer-focused innovations since 2004.

“Sometimes you don’t have to be first – you can wait a bit. If it does become a real thing that builds and consumers love it, then we must be able to respond quickly,” said Celliers.

He cited the bank’s foray into account verification by biometrics as an example of innovation.

“We’ve been working on biometrics for 25 years, but it’s never quite there yet, except for what home affairs has given us.”

“Do we need an ATM yet? We’ve got the concepts; they’re all working, but have we rolled it out infrastructure wide – we think it’s not quite there yet and obviously it costs money to roll out infrastructure,” Celliers added.

READ: Bitcoin set for local growth despite challenges

He also said that the bank was investigating Bitcoin cryptocurrency.

“Blockchain is working, the concepts at the back are working. It’s just whether you switch it on, can it run at scale. You can’t consume all of you resources on all of these thousands of things.”

Celliers said that the bank was concerned about whether consumers would have the trust appetite for new technologies and said that FNB was focused on basic issues.

“What we must do is always come back and say: How long are people standing in the branch? How long do I take to get a credit card application? Where’s my statement? Do the ATMs work? Don’t forget that stuff. We must watch out that we don’t get caught out with a few things and then we’re not real.”

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