St. George takes a leap of faith into smartwatch banking

While St. George has no idea how many of its customers are interested in wearable technology, the bank has launched its first smartwatch banking app.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

St. George Bank has launched a mobile banking application for smartwatches, but without any knowledge of how many of its customers actually own on a wearable device.

St. George head of mobile Travis Tyler said the launch into the wearable technology market is a "test and learn" approach and a "calculated risk", much like what the bank did when smartphones were new to the market and it launched a branch locator app to test the grounds.

"I think the exciting part here is no one knows where this is going to go. St. George has always been good at being at the forefront and testing the boundaries with our customers. We're absolutely looking at where this will take us and ultimately our customers will decide," he said.

A first for Australian banking sector, the launch of the mobile banking app for Android devices will initially give customers access to account balances and display directions, via GPS, to their nearest ATM or branch. SMS alerts and emails with details of key deposits and withdrawals can also be displayed on the watch.

Tyler said the smartwatch app is seen as a secondary device to the smartphone, and therefore no information will be rendered or stored, making the app very low risk to use.

The app will be initially available on the Sony SmartWatch 2 with plans to extend its capability to be used by other smartwatch devices, including Samsung and Pebble later this year.

"We've had a look at the Pebble watch, Galaxy, and Sony watch, but we had the advantage of having the productionised Sony smartwatch, so we were able to go with that one first," Tyler said.

"So the intent here is looking, learning, and providing a new service to our customers, and getting feedback to inform our broader wearables journey."

As part of its broader strategy to address the growing interest in wearable devices, St.George has also been trialling a mobile banking application for Google Glass. But so far there have been no indications of the arrival of Google Glass in Australia aside from sometime in 2014.

But Tyler said this pre-emptive approach is just part of the company's strategy to provide its customers with a personal ecosystem that simplifies banking.

"The good thing is we got our hands [on a Google Glass] six months ago. The other advantage is from a technology perspective we're able to look at how these ecosystems work, but also how our systems and processes work within these ecosystem work.

"So when we do start to get critical mass we're very well prepared to deliver the level of quality service that is expected from a bank, and making sure it's very secure," he said.

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