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Online banking A paradigm shift?

Raja Venkateswar | June 2, 2010
The impact of social networking on online banking

Consider this headline: ANZ staffers used fake Facebook profile to spy on customers

I found this piece of news very interesting, a true example of Blue Ocean thinking, I would imagine. Over the past couple of years, I have been working and consulting with banks on their online strategy (among other things) and almost all the banks I have had occasion to work/consult with expressed a desire to do something on the social network. Something was something that was probably never really defined thoughts were always discussed, some good and some not so good but it was fair to say that other than a couple of interesting ideas, there wasnt any cohesive or constructive strategy formulated to take advantage of the online social networking space with clear goals, business models or a revenue strategy.

A few months back, finextra published this article:  'Firms should embrace social media for customer service research' where a significant percentage of the customers were deemed to be using online media and social networking to discuss options. A significant portion of the customers it is said use online media and social networking media to consider options, look at other customers recommendations and decide with their comments in mind. While banks are considering using blogs, Facebook and other media for their brand positioning, building and building customer orientation all very positive ways to look at the net the fact that ANZ could possibly consider using Facebook to track down errant customers is a paradigm shift.

While there is nothing legally incorrect (correct me if my information is wrong) to create dubious Facebook profiles, tracking down customers could perhaps be deemed as unethical, immoral almost. While ANZ has publicly denounced this as a rogue operation, it does raise some questions is this legal? Is this ethical? If it is not illegal, isnt this is a good way to track down errant customers who are possibly in a legal mess anyway? Keeping in mind the obvious branding problems for the bank, is the effort worth it? Why look at the negative part of social networking and not the positive ones to drive customer advocacy?

As an example, consider a customer who blogs on travel and is planning a vacation. Can his bank become the one-stop shop for organising this for him? Could the bank have microsites dedicated to travel, hotels, car hire schemes etc? The upsides for the bank are easy to observe personal loans, credit card transactions, payment transfers all will be driven through the bank systems. The other upsides are perhaps not as easy to comprehend possibility of new customers the travel agency, car hire agency and all other touch points, a good branding for the bank. If the travel hassles are coordinated by the bank, then an active blogger would perhaps share his experiences online. Perhaps even the bank could be the platform for the blogger could the bank create the enabling platform for blogging? More importantly, would the bank be comfortable? This is a double-edged sword?


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