St George Bank to 'decommission' online banking for mobile

St George Bank has developed a framework where it hopes to eventually integrate its mobile banking platform across all channels, with the process set to include the trialling iBeacon technology in its branches.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

St George Bank was the first Australian bank to launch internet banking in Australia in 1995, but it also plans to be the first bank to deactivate the service and instead integrate its mobile banking platform across all of its channels.

St George Bank CIO, Dhiren Kulkarni, told ZDNet the bank has developed out a framework where by 2015 it plans to be a "mobile only" bank.

"Currently, people have online teams, their mobile team, an Android mobile team, and an Apple mobile team, but I think the industry is changing so fast and so quick you just want to be in a position to cope and continue. So we have to change our strategy where we will be mobile only," he said.

"We will have our first implementation for tablet in October 2014, a second mobile implementation in March 2015, and then desktop sometime in 2015, so we'll have it as one system altogether.

"We were the first bank to introduce online in Australia, and we'll be the first bank to decommission it also."

As part of its next step in enhancing its mobile banking offer, St George has announced a trial of iBeacon, a technology that uses small wireless transmitter devices and Bluetooth Low Energy to interact with nearby devices.

According to Kulkarni, the main aim of using iBeacon is to help deliver a personalised experience to its customers each time they enter a branch by sending a welcome message and tailored information directly to their Apple, Windows, or Android device — as long as its Bluetooth-enabled.

"We are all about improving customer service and getting to know the customer. We have done lots of changes in the past where we introduced ticketing machines within St George branches, but one of the challenges is when the customer walks in ... in many instances it's not easy for us to know the name of the customer or know their needs," he said.

"Knowing the customer is one the most important things, not only in banking, but in the customer service industry."

Customers will have the option to respond to the message or cancel the interaction. Ultimately though, Kulkarni said it gives the bank "for the first time" the opportunity to "create a dialogue" with customers, which will enable branch managers to better service their customers.

"I've been in banking for 28 years, and in the last 10 years we've been trying and trying in the past to crack this," he said, expressing his confidence that iBeacon is the solution the company has been looking for.

Kulkarni stressed the iBeacon technology, which is partially a "technical concept, partly a customer concept, and a social concept", is an affordable investment for the bank, costing less than AU$100,000.

"Sometimes it's about the idea and it has nothing to do with the cost. It has more to do with the purpose of the technology and what we do with it," he said.

The bank will be trialling the iBeacon technology in three Sydney branches over the next two months where there are plans to gain feedback from customers. If successful, the bank hopes to roll out the technology to 63 branches nationally.

Another area of mobile technology St George will continue to embrace is wearable devices, said Kulkarni, who believes it's going to be "very popular" and the next step will be integrating Google Glass when it's officially launched to the public.

Last month, the bank announced its first smartwatch banking app for Android devices that gives 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.

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