ASB customers embrace mobile apps

21:43, Jun 17 2012

ASB Bank chief executive Barbara Chapman says consumers are switching on to mobile banking at four times the rate of internet banking when it first took off.

However, banks were getting faster at being able to copy each other's technological innovations so any competitive advantages they gained would be more short-lived.

''When we introduced internet banking, I think we had a two or three year advantage on every other competitor. There is no way you would expect a two or three year advantage on any technology now,'' she said.

However, only ASB, Kiwibank and TSB instantly processed internal transactions such as transfers between their own customers' accounts, which made mobile banking more relevant, Chapman said. ''That piece is hard for other banks to replicate.''

Kris Nyrgen, Auckland manager of IT testing company Optimal Usability,said that was probably fair comment. ''ASB has had that advantage for almost 30 years and they have quite a big development team.''  But 80 per cent of what banks offered smartphone users would be the same, he said.

Chapman said customers who signed up to ASB's sub-brand BankDirect would be better off switching across to ASB proper as they would otherwise miss out on new technology, such as its latest mobile banking apps.

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BankDirect was founded in 1997, when banks around the world viewed branch networks as drag on profits and were keen to offer cheaper mortgages and better savings rates to tech-savvy customers who were prepared to bank over the internet and by phone.

Ironically, its approximately 30,000 customers have now found themselves in a technological cul-de-sac with none of the discounts.

Chapman said that in only eight days 40,000 people had downloaded an app for iPhones and Android smartphones which lets ASB customers pay other people up to $500 by keying their phone number or email address. The app was originally developed by Australian parent Commonwealth Bank, but unlike its parent, ASB has decided to integrate it within its main mobile banking app, rather than offer it stand-alone.

Next month, ASB will let people pay Facebook friends through the app in the same way  without requiring they key in payees' bank account details, Chapman said.   

If people who are paid through the app don't have it on a smartphone themselves, they need to go to a webpage and enter their bank accounts details in order to redeem the incoming payment. However, Chapman said it still offered customers convenience.

Although BankDirect and ASB accounts are processed using the same bank-end systems, the brands have different front-ends and Chapman said ASB had decided not to make all the mobile functionality it had developed available to BankDirect customers.

''BankDirect in its day was the technology leader in our group, but the technology that is applied in ASB has jumped over BankDirect. I do think BankDirect customers are probably better off now being ASB customers.''

Chapman said it was happy to help BankDirect customers migrate over to ASB but would not do that for them automatically and kill off the brand, in case any customers were still attached to it.'' It stopped paying to BankDirect in 2009 when the former discount bank's interest rates were brought into line with ASB's normal rates.

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