Mercator Perspectives

Banking Channels Observations from Asia and Europe

A recent trip to Singapore that included stops in Tokyo and London offered insight into the ever-evolving and ever-changing global banking channels environment, particularly within the ATM and mobile banking channels.

These self-service channels increasingly offer capabilities that had previously been available only in branches, increasing the reach and level of service available to customers.

Many value-added services exist in -- and between -- these channels. Examples include an ability to withdraw funds in assorted currencies, new methods for depositing cash and checks, bill-pay capabilities, and increased choice regarding account transfers, both within a financial institution and with person-to-person transfers outside of the home financial institution. Additionally, mobile phone topoffs and transit ticket refills are (or will soon be) available in various countries and regions.

Coincidently, Citi announced Citibank Express in Asia at the same time, which it positions as being a next-generation banking channel for the company. An extension of its Smart Banking project announced in 2008, it includes a “smart banking” machine that will enable customers to conduct many (if not most) of their banking transactions at an ATM, including opening accounts and applying for loans, cards and cashier’s checks.

Citibank Express is equipped with an online banking connection, video-conferencing and biometric capabilities for customer identity authentication. A customer can start a transaction on a computer or mobile device and complete it on Citibank Express, and vice-versa.

The first Citibank Express machines were unveiled in Citibank branches in Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines. The company plans to add in-branch and out-of-branch locations across Asia and globally later this year. Citibank Express marks the first major redesign of the ATM since Citibank introduced unattended branches in the 1970s.

Another movement underway is the use of the EMV (Europay, MasterCard, and Visa) global standard for credit and debit payment cards based on chip card technology across the channels. This movement is in various stages of deployment in other countries and continents, and is heading to the US.

Such advancements in channels processes and technologies are but the tip of the iceberg, and new capabilities are being considered by financial institutions and technology providers alike. The look, feel, and capabilities of channels will continue to evolve to meet customer and financial institution needs, and will position channels as integral components of financial institutions’ strategic plans worldwide for years to come.

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