As First National Bank launched its new super hi-tech mobile banking app on Wednesday the bank’s chief executive, Jacques Celliers, made the point that the bank’s pursuit of ever-sexier hi-tech solutions was driven by old-fashioned values such as helpfulness and customer service.
The latest version of the FNB mobile banking app, 5.0, includes a range of digital firsts for Africa. But Celliers made it clear at the launch at FNB’s offices in the Portside building in Cape Town that the bank was not in the tech race just for the sake of it, or to prove that they could “do tech”, but rather to better serve customers.
[I am going to go on a little detour here to mention the surroundings at this launch. It is hard to not enjoy yourself with this view and first-class nibbles provided by FNB’s very own team.]
Despite the abundance of delicious ingredients and an oversupply of food snobs many awful caterers continue to torture us in this city.
I am always surprised and delighted when the food served at a corporate event is anything but ghastly.
FNB did an excellent job here, providing journos with delicious nibbles … there was even wine at lunchtime though it is so old-fashioned to drink at lunchtime that few people tried the Rupert and Rothschild (really).
But back to business … A distinctive feature of FNB App 5.0 is FNB Pay, a globally accepted contactless payment solution, which allows customers to purchase goods by tapping their smartphone on an enabled point-of-sale terminal. And, a first in Africa, FNB Pay enables customers to quickly and conveniently purchase goods below R200 without entering their card PIN.
Celliers described the app as “a gateway into the future of banking” and said many of its features were a clear demonstration of how the bank was prioritising customer needs.
“This platform also puts us in a much better position to continue capitalising on the seamless convergence of banking and telecoms, to produce integrated solutions,” he said.
Raj Makanjee, FNB Premium chief executive, added: “The timing is perfect for contactless technology in South Africa as local merchants are gradually increasing contactless infrastructure.
“Not only does the functionality make it effortless for customers to pay for goods and services, it helps merchants to process transactions far quicker, thus assisting in reducing queues,” Makanjee added.
[Timing being everything … now might be the right time to change banks. After all I have been with my bank for hundreds of years …]
With fraud being a global concern for clients, particularly those using digital platforms, the new app brings industry-leading security features to enable customers to detect and report fraud, FNB said.
Smart inContact replaces SMS One Time Passwords as a way to approve or reject transactions, or report fraud.
FNB said the inContact solution had evolved to introduce Smart InContact, which notified customers of transactions as low as one cent, with full control to report fraud with one touch of the Smart inContact notification.
Communication between the bank and its customers is being brought in-house via the app, another feature that is likely to build trust, another of those old-fashioned values that Celliers frequently referred to.
Another service available through the app that mixes old and new ideas is Secure Chat, where premier and private banking clients can enquire about services or send instructions to their private banking support team.
This interactive messaging in a secure environment is a bit like having a modern line to an old-fashioned service (ie real people).
The app is set to cut out the hassle of using coupons and vouchers and might just bring them back into fashion. Collecting coupons and vouchers, an idea that seems totally out of step with the modern, paperless world will be given new life by the combination of geo-positioning and partnerships with retailers.
If you are in a Shoprite Checkers or any one of the other 16 retailers FNB has already signed up you can download all relevant offers on the spot and redeem them at the till via your phone app.
The app seems to be all about adding on services while simplifying the experience. Reducing irritation is high up on many people’s banking wish-list and what better way than to allow authentication through fingerprint ID, as 5.0 does.
Then there is an option on the app where you can put a temporary block on a card that is mislaid (temporarily, rather than having found its way into the hands of the local mafia) to give yourself time to find it.
[Maybe it is time to move banks …]
Another way of reducing the number of things that can go wrong is the option on the app that allows cardless withdrawals. A customer logs on and requests the withdrawal and then has 30 minutes to collect the order at an ATM using a password.
FNB used the same event on Wednesday to release information about its watch app, which extends key features of the banking app to an Android or Apple smartwatch.
It is less easy to connect this innovation to good old-fashioned values … unless you are one for a good, old-fashioned bargain. To celebrate this launch, FNB is offering a discount of up to 40 percent to customers purchasing a smartwatch via the eBucks Online shop.