More than 100 000 mobile devices have been snapped up in the space of a year, since big four bank First National Bank (FNB) started offering its clients certain devices at discounted rates, payable over a 24-month period, interest-free.
FNB’s smartphone and tablet offer was introduced as part of the personal cheque account this time last year, as part of the bank’s strategy to drive cashless payments and digital banking.
At the time, FNB said the deal was destined for success in light of the rapid increase in the use of smartphones and tablets in SA – evident in the numbers as there were an estimated eight million smartphones in circulation in SA then, and an estimated ten million (about a fifth of the total population of citizens) now.
In February, ITWeb reported FNB’s device sales had exceeded the 35 000 mark in a four-month period – a growth pattern that has remained consistent, leading to the latest figure of 100 000 (an average of over 8 300 devices sold per month).
Within a month, FNB came under fire from customers when it struggled to keep up with the demand the deal elicited – particularly when it came to the iPad 2 – the world’s leading tablet device in terms of market share at the time.
Kartik Mistry, product owner at FNB Core Banking Solutions, said the magnitude of the response was unexpected. The bank was fielding more than 1 500 queries a day, he said.
After ramping up resources and smoothing out the problems, FNB later added Samsung Galaxy Tabs, the Samsung SIII and Samsung Note 10.1, Apple Macs, Acer Windows Laptops, the new Apple iPad and the iPhone 4S. Related services like SIMs, data, insurance, gift apps and electronic magazine subscriptions were also added to the offer.
Mistry says currently BlackBerry and Apple iPads are top of the popularity list, with Samsung SIII performing well and Samsung Galaxy Tabs gaining market share. “iPhone 4S and Galaxy Note 10.1, introduced in September, are also selling well.”
The cost of the device is added onto the customer’s monthly banking fees.
Irlon Terblanche, CEO of FNB Core Banking Solutions, notes the inclusion of the smart device was a crucial part of the bank’s broader strategy from the get-go.
“Smartphones and tablets are becoming an integral part of our customers’ lives, and we are building a vibrant ecosystem centred around these devices.” Terblanche says the smart device is a “natural add-on” to the bank’s other cheque account services in the digital line, such as the banking app and rewards of free ADSL and 3G data.
“During the past year, FNB’s expertise, range of devices and experience in this retail aspect of banking operations have grown in leaps and bounds. We have streamlined our processes to enable the delivery of our devices within fewer days than when we first launched, we have tightened up our stock management processes, we have grown our range of devices, and we have enabled and leveraged the new dotFNB branches as another distribution channel.”
He says FNB also supplies devices to staff in its branches and via its Premier bankers. “[Premier bankers] can demonstrate to a customer how he or she can stop unsolicited debit orders from running off their account, or change their card PINs or withdrawal limits using the smart device, without ever having to go into a branch.”
Farren Roper, head of connect ISP and business operations, says FNB’s digital banking platform is also evolving. “The banking app is now adding more than 30 000 new customers to the channel per month.”
About half of all tablets in use locally, he says, are Apple iPads – with Samsung’s tablets following in second and Huawei’s in third place. “The rest of the market is made up mainly by Acer, Toshiba and the local Wise tablet brand.”