South Africa has long been recognised for its culture of entrepreneurship, innovation, and the ability to devise practical remedies in the face of inadequate resources.
This is also true for the financial services industry where South African banks have been pioneers in using mobile technology to reduce their cost of doing business, improve services, and help customers keep track of their accounts and combat fraud.
Len Pienaar, chief executive of Mobile and Transact Solutions for First National Bank (FNB), addressed delegates at the BAI Retail Delivery conference in Las Vegas last week about the financial institution's successful implementation of cellphone banking.
"South Africa is one of the most sophisticated countries in the world in terms of banking technology such as real time transactions and full channel integration. FNB averages over 100-million cellphone banking transactions a month,² Pienaar said in an interview with Bank Systems and Technology magazine at the event, featured on itsr blog at www.banktech.com/blog/archives.
FNB uses technology from mobile messaging provider, Clickatell, to send alert notifications to its clients about debits, credits and suspicious activity on their accounts. FNB's SMS banking service, launched in 2005, allows clients to make balance enquiries and even buy cellphone prepaid airtime or vouchers for their utility bills via SMS messages.
With SMS alert notifications only now starting to take hold in the US, this conference once again highlighted South Africa's leadership in the cellphone banking arena.
Earlier this year, Clickatell powered another world first by supplying Metropolitan Life¹s new division, Cover2Go, with mobile messaging technology enabling lower income groups in under-serviced markets to buy insurance via their cell phones using short codes. R10.00, taken off their customer's cellular airtime, gives users instant accident insurance for six days, paying out R10 000.00 in the case of accidental death.
SMS messaging has a proven business model in text-mad South Africa, but both Clickatell and Pienaar agree the US is likely to follow the same route due to the simplicity and cost effectiveness of this technology.
"SMS is a quick, easy, direct and cost effective data delivery tool. Together with being one of the most commonly used and understood forms of non-voice mobile communications among end-users, this will ensure that SMS remains the world¹s most preferred mobile messaging service for years to come," says Deon van Heerden, Clickatell's South African country manager.