Absa on Tuesday released a beta version of its new online banking portal that includes the first steps into personal financial management software.
The widget-based layout is fully customisable and will become the default digital platform for its clients in months to come.
Adrian Vermooten, Absa’s deputy managing executive for digital channels, says the update represents a “completely new look and feel” for digital banking and, unlike traditional Internet banking, Absa Online is “no longer about just transactional requirements, but allows access to all Absa group services.
Vermooten says the new portal is “Web 2.0-orientated” and includes an inbox that allows users a “secure way to communicate with the bank directly”.
Asked whether the bank intends to launch a Twitter profile in the vein of First National Bank’s RB Jacobs account, Vermooten says Absa has a social media team that is managing the bank’s Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn accounts and that this will be expanded soon to include other platforms.
He says the bank’s existing social media presence is “community-orientated” and is focused on “managing interactions with customers, queries and responses, and stimulating conversations. It’s not a marketing channel; it’s about deep customer engagement.”
The Absa Online portal includes a feedback form for users that asks them four questions concerning their experience with the new platform. Vermooten says the bank has seen 6 000 replies on launch day alone.
The benefit of the widget-based approach, says Vermooten, is that the bank can add further services “dynamically” and that it allows customers to “personalise or customise their layout”.
Absa Online also marks the bank’s first move into personal financial management (PFM). “This service has been two years in the planning, so it’s not a kneejerk reaction to 22seven”. 22seven exited beta development earlier this month.
“These are the first components of PFM,” says Vermooten. “You can take all of your relationships in the broader Absa Group, from share-trading portfolios and unit trusts to home loans, and get a consolidated view of your entire Absa portfolio”.
Vermooten says Absa understands people may have external investment portfolios or third-party credit cards and that a summary of these can be added manually.
Absa Online includes graphing tools, goal-setting tools and will move into “more expansive” PFM, including transaction tagging, soon. He says automated expenditure tagging can prove too generic while “full manual tagging usually results in user fatigue kicking in quickly — they tag every transaction for the first week, then less in the second week, then none at all. It’s about finding a balance between automated and manual tagging.”
Vermooten says this approach to PFM is “much more secure than giving out banking details to third parties”. Absa was one of the most vocal opponents of 22seven when it launched at the beginning of the year and warned customers that using the service could mean they were not protected in cases of fraud because doing so would mean they had knowingly disclosed their details to a third party in contravention of Absa’s terms and conditions.
Absa Online will initially be offered to users logging into the existing Internet banking platform. The redirect link includes videos and tutorials for users to illustrate the functionality of the new service. For the next three to six weeks, returning users will be directed to the existing Internet banking channel with a prominent link giving them the option to use Absa Online instead.
Eventually, Absa Online will become the default with a grace period during which users can opt to use the existing site instead. The current online banking service will eventually be phased out entirely.
Vermooten says that by early morning on Tuesday, 80% of users of Internet banking that had logged in had opted to use the new site. — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media