Banks’ battle for mobile banking dominance heats up
THE banking application revolution has hit South Africa.
The country’s major banks have either introduced, or are planning to introduce, a raft of applications as the battle for dominance in mobile banking technology intensifies.
Of the big banks, FNB was first off the mark, having launched its app in July last year. Since then, rivals Standard Bank and Nedbank have jumped on the bandwagon.
Absa plans to launch its app probably by year-end, or early in 2013.
The launch of banking apps in South Africa mirrors the global market trend of banks embracing the increasing array of applications designed for electronic tablets.
These tablets are being turned into virtual banking halls, and their adoption in South Africa is providing a lucrative opportunity to migrate middle-to high-income customers away from branches to their tables.
A typical bank app’s functions include normal banking functions, such as checking market indices, exchange rates and planning financial balance sheets, Arrie Rautenbach, head of retail markets at Absa, said on Monday.
He says Absa is not necessarily chasing after its rivals, but is following its own digital banking strategy.
"We are planning to bring to the market our banking app, probably very early in 2013, if not earlier this year," Mr Rautenbach says.
"For us, it is part of a broader digital strategy," he says.
FNB CEO Michael Jordaan says the bank’s app now has 230,000 active users, and is attracting up to 30,000 new users monthly.
"A great app has got to have value and be useful for the customer (and) also (has) to be easy to adopt. By having native apps for different operating systems, the adoption curve is less steep for our clients," explains Mr Jordaan.
Farren Roper, head of FNB Connect ISP, says more than R6bn has been transacted using the FNB app since its launch, with R1bn transacted in June alone.
Nedbank CEO Mike Brown says that while the bank has taken "a little longer" than its rivals to launch its app, it nevertheless felt the time spent developing it was worth the delay. Nedbank wanted to develop an app that is "best in class security and architecture to create a secure electronic highway", and will launch apps that can be used on different smart phones.
Standard Bank’s head of personal and business banking, Peter Schlebusch, says the bank’s app was launched in June, and has experienced over 50,000 downloads over the past six weeks, with transactions worth close to R500m. He says that while the early successes of banking apps do not necessarily mean the demise of bank branches, or other payment solutions — such as debit and credit cards — it shows that customers appreciate the convenience provided by mobile banking technology.