To market financial solutions that cater to existing customers (especially with respect to Gen X and Gen Y) and new ones (Gen Z – born in the mid-1990s and early 2000s and accounting for approximately 50% of Pakistan’s population), UBL have launched a Digital Banking App that promises to revolutionise the way banking is done.
“In the next three years, an estimated 22.25 million people are expected to enter an age bracket that will make them eligible to become banking customers and this represents a huge market potential,” says Sharjeel Shahid, Group Executive, Digital Banking, UBL.
To this end, UBL is pursuing a digital transformation strategy and the launch of the app is the first of several initiatives the bank will be rolling out to transform banking in Pakistan. In its broader scope, the initiative is a part of the Fintech transformation of UBL, whereby the bank is introducing user-friendly financial products and services based on modern technology.
Included in the new features is the use of AR technology, facial ID recognition and the QR payment facility to allow cashless transactions simply by sanning a QR code.
For Gen Z, who were born in the era of smartphones, almost everything (even mundane errands such as paying bills) is done via an app. According to Shahid, “if they are not offered such convenience, they are likely to move to the bank that provides it. More than revenue generation or attracting new customers, our digital transformation is a question of survival.”
The app has several new features that have never before been included in a banking app. “The user interface and the user experience show the seamless execution of this product,” says Ali Habib, Head of Corporate Affairs and Marketing, UBL. Through usage, the app will understand customer preferences and their go-to shops. Such customisation has never, says Habib, been available before. Included in the new features is the use of AR technology enabling customers to access information in real time by pointing the phone at outlets/brands/eateries located nearby and check if UBL exclusive discounts are available at any one of them. “Whether you are a UBL customer or not, shopping and eating out are lifestyle needs and having our app fulfils these needs in real time,” explains Shahid.
Another innovative feature, built in collaboration with Apple’s iPhone X, is facial ID recognition. According to the bank, UBL takes pride in their strong controls and authentication procedures and during the recent wave of frauds and security breaches within the banking sector, UBL was one of the few banks to be unaffected. Now, UBL have taken security to the next level by adding facial ID to the current verification methods. “Username, passwords and pin codes can be violated, but biometrics, retina scans and facial recognition are the most secure authentication options available in the world today,” adds Shahid.
The bank expects a few challenges in increasing the penetration of the app, with lack of awareness topping the list, mainly because customers are usually anxious that their funds might be misused; a general fear that has left 87% of the Pakistani adult population without an account in a formal financial institution (source: Global Findex, 2016).
The third main feature is a QR payment facility which allows cashless transactions simply by scanning a QR code. The feature has the power to drive the economy by enabling merchants, retailers and customers to conduct cashless transactions. In Shahid’s view, given that many retailers do not have debit or credit card machines because they cost a minimum of Rs 35,000, implementing a QR-based payment solution is a much cheaper option, even for businesses with limited budgets.
Although the app has been on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store for the past seven months, the social media campaign broke only last month. The launch plan includes on ground activations in malls, cinemas, railway stations (in collaboration with Pakistan Railways) and at the airport (in collaboration with Shaheen Air).
Ali Hayat Rizvi, ECD, BullsEye DDB (UBL’s agency), says the launch of the app is in line with the bank’s overarching brand vision of #TheNewYou. “The plan is to create differentiated communications for innovative products that speak to Gens X, Y, and Z. According to Rizvi, the communication mirrors the preferences of the young and reflects how seamlessly the app fits into their lifestyles. To this Habib adds that “the app and its communication are a step towards reinforcing the brand’s long-standing attributes as a progressive and innovative bank.
Nevertheless, the bank expects a few challenges in increasing the penetration of the app, with lack of awareness topping the list, mainly because customers are usually anxious that their funds might be misused; a general fear that has left 87% of the Pakistani adult population without an account in a formal financial institution (source: Global Findex, 2016). For the time being, according to Shahid, “our focus is not on how many people have downloaded it, rather it is on the experience and the feedback of the people who have downloaded it.”