The proliferation of always-on devices and an increasingly social and connected world has changed the way businesses operate. By providing consumers with multiple channels of communication, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, connectivity has placed the power in the hands of the consumer.
In addition, smart devices that enable the use of apps for a wide variety of tasks have caused a fundamental shift in the way that consumers wish to interact with organisations. Businesses have had to adapt to this change, and the banking sector, while it may have been slow off the starting blocks, is no exception. Consumers are demanding more services, improved convenience, a tailored banking experience, and the ability to seamlessly bank across multiple channels, among other requirements. This is putting pressure on traditional banking institutions, while creating opportunities for alternative payment gateways and solutions to emerge.
Technology has changed the world, including the banking sector, and consumers increasingly require the choice of multi-channel in addition to traditional bricks-and-mortar trading. These include telephone and Internet banking as well as banking apps on smart devices. However, simply providing multiple channels is no longer enough, as can be seen by the emergence of alternate banking services including PayPal, PayFast or Boodle.
We have also seen the emergence of smartphone-based payment apps like Flickpay and Zapper that are not developed by banks themselves and simply act as a payment gateway. Furthermore, digital wallet services are also on the increase, including Apple Pay as well as messenger-based wallet services like WeChat, which has become increasingly popular in developing countries where smartphone penetration is higher than that of traditional banking. For example, WeChat has become the most widely used mobile payment app in China. Cashless, card less payment systems are beginning to take over from physical payments as they are convenient, secure and make use of a device most consumers would never leave home without – their smart phone.
These services, delivered not by banks but by technology companies, are creating significant disruption in the banking space. While banks have made inroads into this space with services like Geo payments, apps like Snapscan and even local money transfer services such as Mpesa, the reality is that they are simply not as agile as technology companies. Significant existing investment into legacy infrastructure coupled with cumbersome business processes and many compliance requirements has hindered traditional banking’s ability to compete in this space.
Consumers are pushing traditional banks to increase innovation in order to maintain competitiveness. In addition to the requirement for alternative banking channels, more flexible payment solutions and greater choice, customers are also increasingly demanding a more personalised and tailored offering and banking experience. In order retain their market share and grow it, established banks need to move towards an ecosystem of multiple technologies and platforms as well as greater agility and flexibility to continue to meet ever-changing customer demand.
Developing this ecosystem that supports interactive banking platforms, mobile banking and more, to suit the ‘on the go’ lifestyle of the current consumer, means that banks need to address the challenge of massive legacy infrastructure that is not geared for these new technologies and developments. Going back to basics is essential – in other words what is it that they are trying to achieve? Keeping the concept of ease of use top of mind, as well as changing to a customer-centric mind set, is essential. Reducing the cost of banking is also critical. Technology needs to be central to any changes made, and the ideal of meeting changing customer needs with a view to developing long-term relationships is key.
By Saurabh Kumar, Managing Director at In2IT Technologies South Africa