Written by Carel Alberts
In the early days of online banking, banks plied the media with subscriber stats and market share figures, something they have now stopped altogether.
They can hardly be blamed – after 15 years, PC-based Internet banking penetration and growth remains low and online customers are well-serviced. Meanwhile, mobile banking is surging ahead with a continuous wave of new services from banks, software developers, retailers and mobile networks alike. And indications are that this skewed scenario is set to continue. In 2010, PC-based Internet users numbered just 5.5 million (11% of the population), while there were 50 million mobile subscribers (100% penetration).
Unfortunately, the banks are no more forthcoming with cellphone banking adoption and market share figures, which makes it very hard to gauge the current state of play in e-banking and m-banking. We read far and wide (and between the lines) to come up with the following picture.
FNB published the following snippet in March 2010: “FNB’s online customer numbers have increased 25% year-on-year [to] more than 1.3 million account holders.” It doesn’t say what market share this gives it, or whether the number includes mobile Internet banking subscribers.
For its part, Absa announced “nearly one million Internet banking customers” in 2010 – no more than in 2008.
With little more than this to go on, the following conclusions can be made:
• PC-based Internet banking stopped its initial rapid uptake at an early stage of its development. This won’t resume until the country’s supply and pricing of Internet access improves.
• FNB and Absa are the online banking leaders, with a combined subscriber base of more than 2 million. (Absa has 172 000 registered SME customers of its Internet banking.)
By comparison, mobile banking is cooking:
• World Wide Worx’s 2010 Mobile Consumer Survey found that of its banked respondents, 15% do Internet banking, while fully 37% do cellphone banking. Ten percent do both, which could either mean they do browser-based m-banking, or – more likely – they use their PCs at times and mobiles at others.
• FNB has the most cellphone banking subscribers – 2.6 million or 42% of the market (6.2 million subscribers).
• Absa has just under 2 million cellphone banking subscribers. (The bank records 76 000 SMEs among its cellphone banking customers.)
What m-banking clients want
So what do mobile clients want from their banks?
FNB reported that two-thirds of its Christmas 2010 transactions were for prepaid products. Balance requests were also popular, and mobile payments have started to grow in popularity.
Not surprisingly, 65% of its customers are young and earn less than R100 000 per annum. These demographics tally with the accepted wisdom that mobile banking is favoured by lower-LSM groups. But FNB also recorded a strong increase in usage among affluent users. Its FNB.Mobi site, accessed via cellphone browsers, attracted more than 250 000 visitors during the holiday.
Yolande van Wyk, CEO of FNB Smart Services, has been quoted by ITWeb as saying the growth in mobile money is driven mainly by banking customers working in urban regions, who send money back home to unbanked relatives living in rural areas. FNB’s eWallet offering, like Absa’s CashSend and Standard Bank’s MiMoney, gives customers an instant alternative to sending cash without paying bank fees, while still being secure.