Facebook Banking: Don’t Bank on it

Facebook Banking: Don’t Bank on it
On May 5th 2014, La Caixa, one of Spain’s largest financial institutions, officially announced the launch of a Facebook app that provides users access to online banking features through the Facebook platform. It’s just the second bank in North America and Europe to launch a Facebook banking app, and, as far as Celent is aware, the seventh globally. In the weeks following the announcement, I was able to speak with a few different banks about the news, and surprisingly, while they were aware that Facebook banking existed, most were unaware how many banks around the world supported it. This couldn’t come at a better time, as Celent’s recent report, Banking on Facebook: An Overview of Banks with Transactional Facebook Apps, provides detail and analysis of the current offerings, highlighting interesting use cases and opining on the broader applicability of Facebook banking apps in financial services. Efforts are in the early stages, and even the most mature Facebook banking applications have not come close to replicating what’s possible through mobile apps. But are customer customers ready to adopt Facebook as a channel? Not really. In the figure below, taken from a Celent consumer survey last year, only 1% of respondents favored Facebook and Twitter as methods for engaging with their financial institution. In 2012, Citibank asked users about Facebook banking. The response was a resounding ‘NO.’ Users made it clear that they were not ready, echoing long-held sentiments about the perceptions of social media, and illuminating the challenge banks face in developing the channel. Consumers Preferences For Engagement Do Not Include Social Media Untitled Source: Celent US/ Canada Consumer Survey, July 2013/ November 2013; If you had an important topic you would like to discuss with a banker, how would you prefer to do so? N=1028 Celent believes that Facebook banking is only going to be the right choice for a very small group of institutions, given the following:
  • Banks don’t have unlimited resources to dedicate to throwing things against the wall in order to see what sticks
  • Most banks have a long way to go in other channels
  • Social media popularity is a guessing game
  • Despite the popularity of social media, consumers and banks are still uneasy about conducting transactions over social channels
This isn’t an indictment against innovation in social media. Social media is becoming a bigger part of financial services, and many, including Facebook themselves, are investing in social transactions. Social media and banking have a bright future together, however many in the industry are having a hard enough time developing functionally rich and well-designed mobile or tablet apps. Institutions should prioritize those investments for the time being. Banks like ASB Bank, DenizBank, FNB Bank, GTBank, ICICI Bank, La Caixa, and Tangerine (ING Direct Canada) have made Facebook banking applications an integral part of a broader social media strategy. FIs will gain the most value not by mirroring these applications, but by looking at what these institutions have done through social media. Celent found that banks supporting Facebook banking tend to have robust and highly innovative social media strategies. ASB Bank hosts a virtual branch through Facebook, GTBank allows for ‘instant account opening,’ and FNB Bank has created a social media persona that unifies the customer experience across all social platforms. The convergence of social media and banking marches on, despite the uphill battle that many institutions face validating some of the concerns consumers have, and the inherent challenges of each platform. Facebook banking isn’t going to work for all (probably most, at least for now), but lessons can be learned from the ways in which these banks have crafted solid social media strategies. Institutions looking for social inspiration need only visit their pages.
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