In every market I visit, the message is clear – it is all about channel innovation. A couple of weeks ago, I attended the West African Banking Dialogue in Lagos. This event brought together top banks from across Nigeria and Ghana to discuss the future of banking in the region. Again and again, banks looked at the future of digital and how it would shape their business.
A key message that I shared in my presentation was arrival of the ultra-low cost smartphone. I cannot emphasise enough that this will have a massive impact on banks. Both ARM and Mozilla have announced devices will be on the market soon at a cost of $20 or $25 (http://www.phonearena.com/news/Mozilla-signs-a-deal-to-make-the-worlds-cheapest-smartphone-25-Firefox-OS-device-with-3.5-screen-and-HTML5-apps_id52963). The devices will be hi-spec and their screens will be similar to those in the iPhone 3. That is a serious reduction of the lowest price today – which is around $80 for a fairly low spec device.
This will mean a significant leap in the uptake of mobile technology across all markets. I suspect the impact will be most pronounced in emerging markets – but it will have implications for developed markets as well. We have already seen some leading banks seize the opportunities provided by mobile. An excellent example from the Lagos meeting was Standard Bank in South Africa – which is now the largest distributor of iPhones in South Africa. The bank offers the phones to customers at a low price, with their mobile banking app already loaded on it. Having realised that the cost of mobile data was a big blocker for many potential mobile banker on low wages, the bank had a great idea. All their branches have excellent internet access which was not utilised from 5pm to 9am. So they simply made their branches into wifi hotspots after branch hours. Customers who qualified for the bank’s loyalty scheme were given free access.
When you add such innovative customer strategies to the new device prices, you have the conditions where the adoption of mobile banking will fly. That means banks need to think carefully about how good their mobile banking is as a shop front for their brand. Banks also need to think about how they will grow revenue on the back of this upswing in adoption.
In my next blog, I am going to talk about the opinions from Lagos on the role of telcos in mobile banking – and why banks need to think seriously about mobile strategies involving telco dependency.