Tech-savvy Kiwis devise banking innovations

RICHARD MEADOWS
Last updated 05:00 10/07/2014

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New Zealand developers are creating some of the most ground-breaking mobile banking innovations in the world.

But ironically for tech-savvy Kiwis, many of the best features are not available here.

Over 1800 banks around the world now run Fiserv's Mobiliti platform, which was designed and developed in New Zealand.

The financial services software firm bought out local company M-Com in 2011, and now bases almost all its mobile banking development in New Zealand.

Staff numbers have leapt to over 300 from 80 at the time of acquisition and are still growing.

Innovations include fingerprint log-ins, instant car and home loan pre-approvals, predictive personal finance tools, and Google Glass and smart watch applications.

Jim Tobin, a Fiserv senior vice-president and general manager of digital channels, said such features sounded futuristic, but most were already available.

He said banks were investing huge sums into mobile banking, with the Bank of America spending half a billion over three years.

At the same time, the number of mobiles had hit 7 billion, and over half of those would be smartphones by next year.

"This is a market that's not anywhere close to peaking," Tobin said.

Many innovations are bypassing New Zealand, made to order for banks in other countries.

One of the most popular was the ability to apply for a car loan, simply by photographing its vehicle identification number. That sends the relevant information to the lender, which can then approve or decline the loan almost on the spot.

In a similar vein, some customers can photograph paper bills to automatically save them as payees, without having to manually enter anything.

Although several features are not available here, local banks are certainly no slouches.

Westpac has said it wants to be the world's best digital bank. It has smart watch apps already available, Google Glass trials under way, and mortgage pre-approvals offered through a smartphone.

ASB is most notable for integrating Facebook, Trade Me and phone and email payment options into its own app.

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