Looking after your money the mobile way

Looking after your money the mobile way

Managing your finances abroad used to be a tricky business. You needed to ensure you carried sufficient funds for everything you planned to do during your trip. Often once you were out of reach of your nearest bank branch you had no way of keeping track of your finances, ensuring bills were being paid, or getting more money should you need it.

The situation has now changed dramatically, and the last few years have seen an explosion in online and mobile banking across the world. As Alex Bray, Retail Channels Director at Misys, has said:

“With the introduction of online and mobile banking, managing your finances abroad is simple”

Customers can now maintain control of their money from anywhere in the world.

Some countries quickly embraced mobile apps and online banking, while others have been slower to adapt to the growth of mobile technology. In many ways it has been countries in Asia which have been at the forefront of mobile banking. A good example of this is e-bank Japan, a bank with more than three million customers, no physical branches, and less than 200 staff. Opening an account with e-bank Japan can be done entirely on your computer or mobile phone, and identity documents can be photographed using your camera phone and transmitted to the bank using your mobile. This reduces costs for the bank, and speeds up the application process for the customer.

Similar operations exist in India where many rural customers conduct all of their banking using mobile devices. The Indian bank is one example of a bank which offers a mobile app for fund transfers and account checking, as well as a full online service.

Perhaps the biggest market for mobile banking exists in China where a host of different banks now offer downloadable apps to allow customers to check their balance and transfer funds. You can choose from well known names such as ICBC, or UOB (China), China Merchants Bank, or even China Bank, all of whom have mobile apps available. In most cases you will need an account with the bank before you are able to use the app you downloaded.

Kenya leads the way

Surprisingly, for many people, the global leader in electronic money transfers and payments is Kenya. Kenya leads the way due to M-Pesa, their system of money transfer using mobile devices.  Since launching in 2005 the M-Pesa app has changed money transfer in Kenya, and is now expanding throughout Africa, and even India. Electronic money transfer has proven to be particularly popular in Kenya due to the high number of workers who regularly send money home to their families. M-Pesa makes the transfer a quick and low cost option.

One sleeping giant in the world of mobile banking is Brazil. Brazil was one of the first countries to establish the principle of ‘branchless banking’ and can boast one of the largest agent networks in the world, but it has proved slower at adopting mobile banking. Brazil has very recently started to catch up with the trend with HSBC launching a Windows phone app early in 2014.

In many cases Western countries have proved slower to adapt to the changing world of banking – perhaps for cultural reasons or because of the extensive branch networks that exist in many countries. One western country where mobile banking has made a breakthrough is Canada where both RBC Canada and HSBC Canada offer mobile apps to their customers.

Of course, it is not just mobile banking that is growing. Banks are continually seeking new ways to stay in touch with their customers. One method that has proved to be especially effective has been interaction via social media.

According to Alex Bray, this is a case of:

 “Be where your customers are – and help customers to interact with your services via social media.”

If customers now spend time online, rather than in their local bank branch then it makes sense for the banks to follow their customers and engage with them where they are.

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