Despite its reputation of conservativism, the banking sector is one of the leading industries pushing for new innovations to better engage and service customers. Real-time mobile app payments, near-field communications, mobile wallets and even virtual currencies are all examples of how the industry is digitally 'disrupting'.
In a highly competitive and regulated environment, technology is at the core of many banks' strategy to stay in business and to remain successful. But the technology cannot stand alone; it's how technology is used to service and engage customers that is key.
"We can't wait any longer for people to come knock on the door; we have to engage [customers] and keep them engaged," says Defence Bank's CIO, Ian Brown. "It's therefore essential to know your customer, and know when that customer wants you to act on their behalf, so you can."
Here, we look at two key areas where technology is being used to help drive customer engagement in banking and financial institutions.
The mobile customer
CIO of St George Bank, Dhiren Kulkarni, is looking to use context-based technology for the bank's mobile app for self-services such as reporting lost or stolen cards, and notifying the bank when planning on travelling overseas.
The app will be able to detect if a customer is located at an international airport, and can send a reminder to notify the bank of the customer's travel plans so that it doesn't suspect fraud and freeze the account.
When an individual arrives to an overseas destination, the app can point out the nearest ATMs St George has partnerships with so the customer can avoid having to pay a fee, Kulkarni says. The app will also automatically convert foreign currency into Australian dollars when customers arrive to their overseas destinations.
Not one to miss out on the emerging wearables scene, Kulkarni also recently rolled out the St George's banking app to the Sony Smartwatch 2. Customers can check account balances without having to continuously log on with MoneyMeter, look up nearest ATMs and branches, and receive SMS or email alerts when money has been deposited or withdrawn from their accounts by configuring the wearable device to their smartphones.
"At this point in time, we have not made monetary transactions available on the smartwatch because of the security issues, which we take very seriously," Kulkarni says.
Kulkarni is inspired to be a "trends-setter" in the online and mobile banking space, claiming St George was the first banking institution in Australia and the second in the world to offer Internet banking in 1995, and was the first in the country to launch a mobile banking app in 2009. "We saw the smartwatch or wearable devices as an opportunity to be leading in this space."
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