Focusing on technology innovation and delivery has put First National Bank (FNB) at the forefront of customer service and is paving the way for substantial growth in key market areas.

According to Yatin Narsai, CEO of FNB’s Smart Solutions Segment, the success of inContact, FNB’s free transaction notification service, its unique approach to cellphone banking and its ATM implementation strategy are primary examples of technical innovations that have enhanced customer service levels.
FNB’s inContact, a real-time SMS and e-mail based messaging service, has attracted over five million users in just over five years and is growing at the rate of more than 80 000 new subscribers a month.  
Enabling FNB customers to keep in touch with all transactions taking place on their accounts, inContact includes confirmation of deposits, in-store purchases, withdrawals, transfers and debit orders. The service also advises clients of the balances on their accounts and helps customers control banking via their cellphone on a daily basis.
Furthermore, FNB’s innovation in cellphone banking was largely based on its successes and uptake of its inContact service.  The cellphone, once used only to make calls, has evolved into a multi-purpose device that FNB is using to provide banking services to people in even the remotest of areas.
“Having measured the success of the inContact message service, we realised how powerful the use of cellphone technology was in South Africa,” says Narsai.  “Our cellphone banking functionality, based on SMS technology, is accessible, easy-to-use, convenient and free of transaction fees.”
FNB’s functionality appeals to users who have little or no time to do their banking during office hours or who are not easily able to travel to their banks.
The outstanding features of the channel are its ease of use and 24-hour availability. Once registered, customers are able to access their bank account from their cellphone immediately and are cleared to make third party transactions within hours.
Available on any cellphone and any network, whether for prepaid or contract customers, FNB customers can register for Cellphone Banking at any FNB ATM in as little as 60 seconds. Registrations can also be done online or over the phone, as well as at any FNB branch.
Prepaid purchases have become a very attractive feature of the cellphone banking offering, particularly for customers who live far away from other prepaid outlets. “Prepaid electricity, for example, which is a vitally important service, especially during the cold winter months, has performed exceptionally well on the mobile channel, as customers are able to access and top-up their electricity supply at any time, night or day,” explains Narsai.
Commenting on the impact of FNB's Mini ATMs, he says they have enabled the bank to bring banking to the unbanked, as well as to those customers who find banking difficult because they live in the deep rural areas.
“It is often fairly costly to install full-on ATMs in these areas. Mini ATMs are easy to install and break even at lower level volumes, which is ideal for low population density areas. People living in these areas can have prompt access to their cash and those who don’t have a bank account can open one. All access is PIN code protected,” says Narsai.
Customers can use a variety of valid ATM cards. The Mini ATM produces a cash withdrawal voucher at the request of a customer, which the store owner then exchanges for cash. A copy of the customer’s voucher is then kept by the store owner for record purposes and the customer receives a transaction receipt.
The store owners benefit from reduced cash deposit fees and receive commission once break even volumes are achieved, so there is a “win-win” for both the customer and the store owner, as well as for FNB, Narsai explains.
Since they were launched more than six years ago, over 1 274 Mini ATMs have been installed in stores. The Mini ATM forms part of FNB’s strategy to attain Financial Sector Charter targets in underserved and rural areas. It also brings benefits for local communities by stimulating the micro economies, for example people no longer travel to large towns to draw cash and buy goods.
“We are exceptionally proud of all three of these innovations, which have always been implemented with customer service and delivery needs top of mind,” concludes Narsai.