Absa will make available an online banking application for smartphones either in the fourth quarter of 2012 or in the first quarter of 2013, Christo Vrey, the bank’s managing executive for digital channels, has revealed in an interview with TechCentral.
“There is a chance for the fourth quarter of 2012 but, if I’m realistic, we’re probably looking at the first quarter of 2013,” Vrey says. “We’d like to have a Christmas present for our clients, but we’ll probably play it safe and take it to market in the first quarter of 2013.”
Absa will be the last of SA’s big four banks to release a mobile banking app specifically designed for smartphones. First National Bank has had an app for the past year, with Standard Bank releasing an app of its own earlier this month. Nedbank, which is testing an app internally, is expected to release the app in early August.
“We opted not to go first but instead [looked] at the longer-term strategic picture,” Vrey says.
The first priority, he explains, was redesigning Absa Internet Banking under the new Absa Online product, which is now available as a beta to Absa clients. Over time, Absa Online will become the new default banking portal and Internet Banking will be slowly phased out, he adds.
Vrey says Absa Online has been designed specifically so that it works well on tablets such as Apple’s iPad and devices powered by Google’s Android operating system. He explains that the new portal offers Absa customers a great deal of customisation capabilities.
Absa deputy managing executive for digital channels Adrian Vermooten says Absa Online is designed to offer a broader platform, providing more than just transactional banking. It will offer personal financial management software and integrate with a range of products and services, from vehicle finance and share portfolios to investment management and insurance services, under a single sign-on.
Though Vrey is not giving away too much detail about what the upcoming app will do, or who is developing it, he says it will support the smartphone operating systems “prevailing in the market” and will run on phones and tablets.
“The app is one of the most prominent things we are planning to take to market,” he says, hinting that the bank is working closely with parent Barclays in developing products for other markets in Africa where the two banks operate. “We are in the app business and we will be there.”
The bank’s app plans form part of a broader technology refresh, which includes replacing thousands of ATMs in a R500m deal with Altron subsidiary Bytes Technology Group over the next three years.
The bank is using its new concept branch at Clearwater Mall, near Roodepoort, as a test bed for new technologies that will be rolled out to other branches across the country. The branch, which makes extensive use of touch-screen display technologies and tablet computers, has an open design approach and the bank has done away with the traditional approach of putting tellers behind bullet-proof glass.
Premium customers are offered a comfortable lounge area, where iPads and Internet access are on offer. — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media