First National Bank (FNB) has notched up 1-million transactions per month on its cellphone banking and plans to expand the channel further. 

With prepaid airtime still the major reason that people use this channel, the bank has decided to broaden its scope, introducing a new international airtime solution called Globel.
Len Pienaar, CEO of FNB’s Mobile and Transact Solutions says the channel’s success is because the bank strives to add new offerings and remain relevant to the target market.
The new Globel direct recharge solution is the first available via cellphone banking channel in South Africa and allows FNB ’s Cellphone Banking customers to buy cheap international prepaid airtime from their cellphones.
"Prepaid airtime still remains the leading driver of transaction volumes on the Cellphone Banking channel, accounting for more than 50% of transactions recorded monthly," says Pienaar.
By introducing a range of prepaid international airtime products on the channel, the bank hopes to continue its growth.
As with all of FNB’s Cellphone Banking transactions, customers will not incur a bank charge for purchasing the airtime. Once a customer has a Globel account number, the same account number can be topped up repeatedly, preventing the need to enter a long PIN number when using the service.
FNB’s Cellphone Banking channel targets the mainstream market, which is where the bank’s development strategy has focused.
Cellphones allow the delivery of essential services like prepaid airtime and electricity to even the most rural doorsteps, as cellphone coverage and penetration is constantly improving within Africa.
Prepaid purchases, in particular, remain the most popular on the cellphone banking channel. More than R22-million worth of prepaid services were purchased on FNB’s cellphone banking channel in the month of August this year, a huge growth from R12-million during the same month in 2006.
Balance enquiries come in second, comprising a quarter of all transactions, however latest figures reveal a constant growth in the usage of the channel for both payments and transfers.
To date, FNB has concentrated its focus on getting the African cellphone banking market established by addressing customers’ concerns around simple registration, ease of use, affordable access to the service and security.
"Through this exercise, we are turning the improved market awareness of cellphone banking into customer behaviour that embraces it as a convenient banking channel," said Pienaar.
Increased awareness drives have even seen the bank’s cellphone banking operations in Namibia and Botswana leapfrog the humble growth period associated with Cellphone Banking’s early days in South Africa.
Pienaar foresees a new role for cellphone banking; that of using the cellphone as a purchasing and payment channel.
"We are already seeing successes with its use in the purchasing and payment of prepaid services. The launch of the Globel service will continue this trend in customer behaviour, making FNB an essential partner in prepaid airtime distribution."