Banks offering more seamless technology

PHOTO: Banks offering more seamless technology

Singapore banks are slowly catching up with their regional counterparts in providing retail customers with more technology-based services, says financial advisory CEB.

It found that banks are working towards making transactions and other processes between branches, mobile gadgets and the Internet more efficient and seamless.

They are also focusing on talent to make the whole system work better.

Mr Arthur Leong, director of financial services at CEB, told The Straits Times: "For example, apply for a credit card online, walk to branch to follow up, and they can tell you: 'Yes, I see you applied online two days ago.'

"Every department should know, not just the Internet banking staff."

CEB offers research and advisory services to businesses and reviews retail banking every quarter.

Consumers who prefer this multi-channel experience, as it is known, have increased 20 to 30 per cent since 2007, said Mr Leong, and they tend to be the mass affluent who are busy with work.

They also research products online and only go to branches when they are ready to make a transaction.

When that happens, front-line staff need to be able identify cross-sale opportunities, which is one skill missing now in retail banking, he said.

"If a customer is both a commercial and retail banking customer, will the teller or front-line staff be able to know all the products the customer has?" said Mr Leong.

Singapore's limited size is a key reason behind the slower take-up of banking technology.

"Banks are starting to do things differently, but with a population of 5.4 million people, any technology investment made here by a bank is limited in effect, whereas in the United States, the same amount and size of investment can reach some 100 million people," noted Mr Leong.

"In that sense, Singapore banks are a little bit slower in really rolling out full-scale technological advances."

CEB also asked banks in Asia-Pacific about what their branches would look like in three years and what they are doing now to achieve that.

Mr Leong said institutions such as OCBC Bank are improving the transactional experience with digital tools.

The online service OCBC Money Insights, for example, helps users look at how much they spend and what other consumers in the same age group are spending on.

Consumers can also expect more high-tech ATMs like those at Citibank where they can speak to the tellers from the screen.

"Banks will need to find ways to teach their customers to be able to value-add, and to position themselves where customers are learning," said Mr Leong.

"That's when you have social media and blogs coming up. Banks are a bit wary of that because they don't know exactly how to handle it. How do you monetise that social media channel? It might change in the future, but not yet."

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