First National Bank (FNB) today launched their first banking app for smartphones and tablets, which is aimed at making banking on the go a lot easier for their customers.
The app is available for Android, Apple and Blackberry devices, and has been designed to be easy to use. We spoke to FNB CEO Michael Jordaan about the app and why it’s important.
* The app is fairly large at 18MB, why is that?
You have to look at the type of security that we used for it, and compare it to other international banking apps. The built-in VOIP is important to us, as all banking will be done this way. Also, the VOIP will allow customers to call other FNB Connect users for free. Currently the price of a FNB connect call is lower than Skype, and it’s very cheap to SMS.
* How important is the app for Africa?
It’s hugely important for us to have a app that will allow people to do online banking. The $100 smartphone is very close, and then we would like to be ready for it – and through this we can be. We have developed many services in the past, but the smartphone app is an evolution of technology. Smartphone adopters in the rest of Africa will be huge, but we also offer smart apps for dumb phones.
* Have you noticed an increase in customers since the launch?
Yes, we have seen an increase in the sense that more clients have opened a FNB account because of the app. Well, it could also be because of our eBucks rewards or fuel rewards, but there has been a significant increase. We have the number one online banking facility in the country, and we have seen a record number of bank switchers. The app is not credit-led, but appeals to the bread-and-butter customer.
* Are you worried that other banks will soon follow?
You always have to be paranoid with competitors. I lose sleep over what the other banks are up to, and what will be the next big thing. It’s a healthy paranoia, but I actually worry about all companies. Change is ever-increasing, so you have to be slightly paranoid in order to stay ahead. I always say that you have to wake up and start running, and that is what we are trying to do.
* Will in-branch banking disappear?
I don’t think that it will. The app is only another channel for customers to interact with their account. It definitely replaces the inconvenience of going into a bank, but people still need the occasional face-to-face advice. The app won’t kill branches, it will just change the way in which branches operate. We are actually opening one to two new branches a week.
* How has the app been received?
It’s been great watching Twitter and seeing how excited the people are. It’s a trending topic and customers have also commented on the app on the Android market. It’s very exciting and some people actually found to app online before the release date, which just showed their enthusiasm. We tried to keep it a secret, but they found it three days before the official launch. We also had a great team working on it.
* Will FNB start their own technology company?
At the moment we just want to lead in technology to benefit our customers. I don’t think that we have any plans to form a separate company dedicated to developing new technology. We are just in the game of tech enablement.
Charlie Fripp, Consumer Tech Editor, ITNewsAfrica