Banks are increasingly relying on digital channels both to attract clients and to service them. The offering of services online and via various remote channels in the world of banks is not an end in itself, but rather a consequence of the changed behaviour of the clients, who spend most of their time in front of the computer, the tablet or on the phone. Like any other organization on the market, banks are striving to keep up with their clients and to assist them as much as possible. The use of Internet and online banking for payments and other operations has become something normal for the clients in the recent years. At the same time, banks have started offering remotely also a number of other services. Now almost every bank advertisement ends with the option for the client to apply for a desired product online or to contact the bank via various digital channels – phone, Viber, Skype or Facebook. The options that the clients have thanks to the new technologies are increasing constantly. These banking trends at the beginning of 2017 were summarized by Yulian Vlahov, Head of Alternative Channels Department of UniCredit Bulbank.
The standardized banking operations, such as transfer of funds from one account to another, payments, monthly repayments under loans or leases, payment of utilities, etc. are now performed mostly online or via mobile banking, which saves the clients precious time. According to the statistics of UniCredit Bulbank, now nearly 80% of the banking transactions are performed by the clients on their own: via the online or mobile banking. Growth is noticed also in the operations. "Last year our electronic payments increased by 15%, while those performed at a cash desk remained the same, with a slight downward trend," commented Vlahov.
The number of mobile banking users is growing really fast – the growth in UniCredit Bulbank for 2016 alone is nearly 150%. "This is the fastest-growing channel. This is quite natural – the mobile phone is the device every one of us has. It is really convenient when, along with all of its useful functions, we have available also banking services we need on an almost daily basis – we can keep track and manage the funds on a bank card or account, keep track of loan repayments, pay utility bills or pay and send money to relatives. In fact, mobile banking has turned into a necessity in our fast-paced and technological world," explained Vlahov. The growth of mobile banking users in 2017 is expected to double in comparison with 2016.
The share of loans sold via the other digital channels of the bank – via the call centre or the online banking, too is constantly growing and in 2016 it reached nearly 20% of the total share of loans. "The growth of the sales performed via the digital channels has doubled in comparison with the previous year", commented Yulian Vlahov. The products most often applied for online are consumer loans, overdrafts, debit or credit cards. "As a whole, at the level of retail banking, around 10% of our sales are already performed remotely – via some of the digital channels", said Vlahov.
Do you think that elderly customers find it difficult to use modern technologies? "Digital banking channels themselves facilitate customers", Yulian Vlahov says. He believes that it is not people's age that defines whether a customer is feeling comfortable in using modern technologies or not. Vlahov believes that it is rather their overall attitude, behaviour and willingness to keep abreast of the latest developments. "We can see that an increasing number of people of different age groups have been using remote banking with priority. This shows that users are easily getting used to it. When a product or service is more complex and requires consultation, however, it can initially be offered online and then followed by consultation and assistance on site at a bank branch", he said.
"After all, if we have to describe the profile of the customers who usually use mobile and online banking, we will refer to people between 22 and 55 years of age who want to carry out easily their daily tasks, including banking", Yulian Vlahov commented.
What digital banking trends can be expected in 2017?
"We expect that the tendency to offer more and more products remotely, online or by phone, will increase. People will get used to receive various remote banking services, including opening an account, virtual consultation or access to their personal banker who will provide them with the same assistance without having to physically go to a bank branch. Such tendency can be seen in the developed world and it will set itself in Bulgaria too", Vlahov forecasts. "In the medium term I expect that banking services will also be accessed by the channels and places with a large concentration of customers, and more specifically, social networks, different partners, including retail outlets, online services and platforms".
Is our money safe in digital banking? Banks invest heavily in protecting digital channels, Vlahov comments. "This is an area which is being developed constantly. Moreover, we have state-of-the-art technologies in the field of online security at our disposal such as security and monitoring systems, including user profile analysis, etc. In this sense, customers are absolutely secured by banks, he says. However, a user's behaviour on the Internet is crucially important as well. Users have to follow fundamental safety rules, for example, they should not download unlicensed computer software, should not open e-mails sent by an unknown sender, should use updated antivirus programmes, bank security experts advice.
Additional media information:
Victoria Blajeva, tel +359 (0) 2 9264 993, wjlj/ebwjepwbAvojdsfejuhspvq/ch
Beatris Nikolova, tel +359 (0) 2 9232 528, cfbusjt/ojlpmpwbAvojdsfejuhspvq/ch