Standard Bank is enhancing its cellular phone banking products to capitalise on the growing popularity of the medium.
Anthony Abbot, Standard Bank’s channel head, cell phone banking, says the bank has embarked on a major drive to familiarise people with cell phone capabilities as it seeks to add further value to its banking channels.
“Our first major familiarisation project was the recent Cricket World Cup in the Caribbean during which we experienced around 200,000 cell phone page views for live scores and updates on the matches,” he says, stressing that this occurred mainly through word of mouth without any official marketing activity.
“The cell phone is an essential lifestyle tool and is rapidly coming of age as an instrument for a wide range of banking services and transactions. As our customers increasingly use their cell phones for value-added services, cell phone banking is sure to benefit from this behavioural growth and transformation.”
Specifically for the cricket extravaganza, Standard Bank developed its own mobile Internet site inside a week and was extremely satisfied with the number of visits to the site it received from cricket enthusiasts.
In the ongoing effort to prepare growing numbers of people for cell phone banking, the bank will also be introducing mobile phone-based soccer, cricket and share trading value added services over time.
Through “tell-a-friend” competitions, Standard Bank has already quadrupled its cell phone banking customer registrations and is optimistic that cell phone banking has a bright future.
“There are perception barriers that need to be overcome, but this is a question of education and becoming more comfortable with using cell phone technology for a wider range of functions,” says Abbot.
“In the early days of Internet banking, there was a lot of scepticism and some fear, but people became very comfortable with using the internet for all sorts of things and online banking is now a very important banking channel.”
Unsurprisingly, young people have been quicker to take to cell phone banking than their older peers. They are comfortable with using their WAP (wireless application protocol)-enabled phones for a wide range of uses.
Second generation smart cell phones using WAP 2.0 technology (Mobile Internet) offer bank customers a sophisticated banking experience, giving them similar functionality to internet banking – but on a cell phone.
“There are over 25-million cell phone users in South Africa and more than four times that number across the African continent so the potential for cell phone banking, or the mobile channel, is huge,” Abbot adds.
Like Internet banking and speech banking, cell phone banking is extremely cost-effective for banks and their customers who are becoming increasingly comfortable with and reliant on remote banking that negates the need to personally visit a bank branch or send payments via post.