Bank says it perfecting its product before launching it later this year.
JOHANNESBURG –Absa says it’s working on a smartphone banking application that may challenge FNB’s smartphone app.
“We’ve had prototype apps for both smartphone and tablets that we have been experimenting with for just over a year now…but we are not in a rush [to bring these to the market],” said Adrian Vermooten, deputy managing executive for Absa Digital Channels.
Absa currently has an Android based application that allows its sales consultants to open bank accounts and issue debit cards to new customers in less than ten minutes – but the one due for release by the end of the year could potentially change its client’s banking experience.
FNB was the first bank in the country to launch a smartphone and tablet computer devices in July this year and is accessible through several device platforms including Android, Apple and Blackberry devices with “additional platforms to follow soon”.
But Absa says it’s learning from its competitors’ teething problems before it brings its response to the market which is expected to happen in the “fourth quarter of this year”, said Vermooten.
Some challenges FNB faced visible below the FNB app on Android’s market website says Vermooten included the app not working on some Android devices and offering limited services like finding an ATM… and not being able to make airtime purchases from the app”. He adds that the slow roll out of FNB’s apps on different operating devices is a hurdle that Absa is hoping to avoid.
Smartphones have an estimated 16% penetration level in the country, according to information technology research company, Gartner, with high levels of growth expected in the years to come. However, Vermooten believes that other phones are also important for banking: “We have a broad offering that gives our customers more ways of doing mobile banking. We are the only bank in South Africa that offers clients three ways of doing their mobile banking,” said Vermooten, citing Absa’s USSD code running app on *120*Absa (2272) #, Secure SMS and Wap Browsing apps. Vermooten says that this opens Absa’s client base up, by not catering exclusively for the middle to higher income market segment as these applications are accessible on all cellphone devices.
Who’s following suit?
Standard Bank and Nedbank have yet to reveal details of their developments. Nedbank’s Anton de Wet, managing executive of personal banking and client value management, said, “Nedbank acknowledges the importance of mobile banking. We continuously monitor the market for trends and new technology that will add value to our clients in the form of more convenient and great value banking, saving them time and money. We are currently working on a number of innovative cutting edge solutions incorporating mobile and digital technologies, including mobile and tablet applications.”
Standard Bank however, remained mum on its technological advancements in the mobile money, smartphone and tablets circle.
It’s not yet certain whether these applications will see an increase in the number of banked individuals in the country or have an effect on the banks performance but as Vermooten says, until a level of application standardisation is defined or implemented in the industry, only then will we really be able to distinguish between a good app, and a great one.