Digitisation + innovation = tomorrow’s financial services

FNB’s head of Digital Banking, Giuseppe Virgillito, believes continuous innovation in the digital space leads to better financial services for all.
Giuseppe Virgillito, FNB head of Digital Banking.
Giuseppe Virgillito, FNB head of Digital Banking.

Voted the best digital bank in the 2020 SITEisfaction survey, due to its domination of overall customer satisfaction metrics on both the Best Mobile Banking and Best Internet Banking categories, FNB is well-placed to discuss current and future trends in the financial services sector.

Now in its ninth year, the survey benchmarks internet banking, app and customer experience across the various financial institutions, with FNB recognised as one that provides customers with an innovative, contextual and agile banking experience.

Brainstorm spoke to Giuseppe Virgillito, FNB head of Digital Banking, about the bank’s own approach to digital, as well as trends that are likely to impact this industry, and how FNB plans to react to these trends as they arise.

“FNB invests a lot of time and resources in understanding what customers require from us, and we are diligent in ensuring that we deliver to their needs,” he says.

To this end, the company has placed a lot of focus on expanding its offering on its banking app, through a strategy of continuously innovating and adding rich functionality across all digital interfaces, including online banking.

“We’re aware that the latter remains a preferred interface for some customers such as businesses or senior citizens, who tend to be more comfortable using a bigger screen than a smartphone. This also holds true for USSD or the cellphone banking interface, which is preferred by customers who hold entry-level bank accounts or phones.”

Digital’s day is here

Virgillito adds that over the years, FNB has expanded its digital capability to cater to customers' needs in areas such as transacting, lending, investing and insuring.

“We have thus introduced money management tools that essentially give customers a view of their financial position at any given time. The tools further assist them to budget, view available funds and track expenses.”

Taking care of the older generation

Most Covid-19 research has highlighted the fact that senior citizens are among the most vulnerable to the pandemic, leading FNB to advise senior citizens to consider more efficient ways of banking, in order to minimise the risk of exposure.

CEO of Premier Banking at FNB Kamal Kalian says that the adoption of digital banking channels over this period empowers consumers of all ages with tools to easily manage their money from anywhere and at any time, while allowing them to protect their health at the same time.

“We aim to educate our customers around the ease and safety of using digital platforms. To those customers over the age of 55, we want to emphasise the endless benefits such as cost savings and convenience. Furthermore, in light of the pandemic, it has become essential for all to fully embrace the technological innovations designed to offer them ease of banking, convenience and safety.

“To ease customer fears, FNB utilises a number of security features in order to enable easy and secure online banking. These include monitoring the device being used to ensure that it is verified, and, if not, only limited services will be available. Customer transacting via online banking will also be required to authenticate the transaction on their banking App as an additional safety net,” says Kalian.

Customers have certainly taken to digital, continues Virgillito, pointing out that digital interactions continue to soar – financial and non-financial transactions performed on all digital interfaces exceeded 470 million in December 2019 alone. In the same month, total financial transactions performed on all digital interfaces topped R1.2 trillion.

“For us, data is a critical instrument to understand what our customers’ needs are, and we use various sources to identify and address these via innovative solutions. Digital banking interfaces are also increasingly becoming a one-stop shop for customers to access services beyond mere traditional banking.

“On the core service side, digital payment features like FNB Pay – which encompasses tap to pay and scan to pay – Pay2Cell, Send Money and eWallet are all becoming increasingly popular. Although it’s clear some of the most recent trends can be partly attributed to Covid-19, the rise has been consistent over a lengthy period of time, driven mostly by customers seeking efficient and cost-effective ways to meet their day-to-day needs.”

FNB believes that customers are increasingly aware of the benefits of using a digital platform to access banking services. Still, it continues to encourage the uptake of this by incentivising customers with eBucks, free transactions and richer functionality.

“More importantly, we have also removed a critical barrier to access our app, by zero-rating cellular data usage,” he adds.

Agility and simplicity

“In today's hyper-connected, fast-moving world, it’s more important than ever to deliver an innovative, contextual and agile banking experience to customers. This is, arguably, one of the areas where FNB leads the sector locally, as the bank has been working to ensure that its digital interfaces are contextual to its customers' needs.

“For instance, based on our banking relationship with a customer, we are able to offer them tailor-made, pre-approved solutions in areas such as transact, insurance, credit and investments. We recognise that each customer has a unique set of needs, and our aim is to ensure that their banking experience is contextual to them. This is akin to each user's individual playlist on Spotify.”

Contextual solutions, Virgillito adds, are the future of digital banking and using data and analytical insights is imperative to achieving this.

“Simplicity and access to solutions 24/7 are also key aspects of the customer experience, but, at the same time, these need to be facilitated securely. In this respect, security was one of the key mentions in our recognition as Best Digital Bank,” he says.

“Our efforts to help customers minimise exposure off-platform has seen us create in-app messaging to give customers full control over their money. Customers are able to report fraud at a click of button on our app. They can also dispute or reverse and/or approve new debit orders that are loaded on to their accounts, in order to minimise the risk of unauthorised debits.”

Digital banking interfaces are also increasingly becoming a one-stop shop for customers to access services beyond mere traditional banking.

In the end, he suggests, the role of digital banking interfaces is to enable easier access to services; security is paramount to ensuring that customers can trust and rely on these interfaces. The bank has seen a growing number of customers embracing these efforts to help them manage their money through this platform.

Of course, in the fast-evolving world of technology, it’s easy to find yourself on top one minute and at the bottom of the pile the next. So what new technologies does he see as critical for this sector in the near future?

“In line with the evolution of consumer-driven technology trends, we believe that wearables will become a prominent feature for customers. To this end, FNB already supports third party payment solutions like Fitbit, Garmin and Samsung Pay, and allows customers to maintain their partner wallets on FNB interfaces as well. While we are still, essentially, in the early adopter phase, we’re confident that wearables that provide the ability to make payments without the need for cash, or even a physical bank card, will be the next big thing,” he says.

See also