Friday, February 01, 2008

Mobile Commerce replacing bank branches in Australia?

I read this article from stuff this morning. The implication in the lead-in was stunning...
"Australians are fast deserting bank branches and soon won't even need a computer to transact, now that the country's major banks are rolling out mobile phone banking services."

It's stunning because it's wrong. You'd think that you'd soon be able to walk down the main streets of Sydney and not see any bank branches and that we'll all be using our mobiles to transact.

A visit to Australia recently demonstrated that banks are re-opening branches in suburban areas, and are extending opening hours for existing branches into the weekend and after 'normal' working hours. The same trend has been occurring in NZ.

Leads to to 2 questions - one on this topic and one broader.

1. Why are branches important for banks ?

Branches are important for banks as they provide a direct and personal link to their customer. When it comes to high complexity and high value transactions, customers will want to understand the impacts - they won't get this on their mobile, they'll get this by talking to a knowledgable bank employee. Sure banks will continually look for more efficient and more convenient ways to manage high volume, low complexity transactions. That becomes part of the portfolio of choices they offer to customers. It makes sense for banks to offer a multitude of ways - not just one way - to serve their customers. ANZ's Brian Hartzer makes this point in the article. That is the real headline.

2. Why does a belief exist that a new type of technology will totally supercede any existing means?

Maybe it generates headlines - I'd love to know from anyone who has been in the journalist or social marketing fields why it is necessary to be so black and white about this type of thing. Experience says that these changes are slow in coming and you never really know where they land - it is very rare to have one mode totally replaced by another. In this particular case there is no further detail in any of the article that Australians are fast deserting branches - yet the journalist or editor in question seems to think that it's important to know in this article. It isn't and it just seems naive.

Finally, it is good to see that something which has been around for around 5 years in New Zealand is seen to be a big thing about to happen in Australia . A great example of using NZ as a test market before moving to larger markets - best of luck to the M-Com team as they break into a larger population base. They've done a lot of hard work here building a business model and ecosystem - maybe payoff for the hard work is just around the corner....

1 comment:

Ben Kepes said...

Miki - the issue here (IMHO) is not whether or not bank branches should be closed or reopened, it's whether technology can replace banks in their totality (or at least re-invent banking.

I've long felt that one of the platform players of perhaps telco's could introduce a smarter banking service that has all the benefits that technology could bring without the old world-iness of the traditional banks

It's what I'm gunning for anyway

Ben