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Demonetisation was biggest catalyst for mobile banking which will outpace netbanking in 2018: ICICI Bank

Sohini Mitter
12th Jan 2018
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On the tenth anniversary of its iMobile app, India’s largest private bank says that from customer acquisition to transactions, mobile is leading the way. Voice-led banking would be the next big trend.

India’s largest private sector lender, ICICI Bank, has had a mobile banking product for ten years now. But, it is only in the last two years or so that mobile transaction volumes have soared dramatically. Much of it was triggered by the Central government’s demonetisation drive in November 2016, and very soon mobile banking through the iMobile app will surpass net banking.

In a media briefing to announce the tenth anniversary of iMobile, ICICI Bank revealed that mobile banking now accounts for more than 50 percent of all digital transactions, and will outpace netbanking this year. Transaction volumes have been high too. In the last two fiscals, iMobile recorded transactions worth Rs 2.64 trillion and Rs 3.1 trillion, respectively. Digital as a whole enables 84 percent of all transactions at ICICI Bank.

“Last few years have seen a lot more dynamism. We have doubled the number of transactions and trebled their value. iMobile is fast outpacing our internet banking both in acquiring new customers, offering them guidance as well helping them in transactions. Demonetisation was one of the biggest catalysts in the sector,” Madhivanan Balakrishnan, ICICI Bank's Chief Technology and Digital Officer (CTDO), said on the call.

iMobile reaches eight million customers and leads mobile banking across private sector banks in India, says the company. Over 180 features and services are offered by iMobile that has ranked among the world’s top 20 banking apps, according to a Forrester research. Account status viewing, bill pay, mobile recharge, P2P transfers, etc. are the most popular services availed on the iMobile app.

Some of the most popular merchants on the platform are IRCTC and Tata Sky. “Good use cases are being driven on the merchant side. Scan and Pay is a really hot feature among customers who scan a simple QR code to make instant payments to merchants,” Balakrishnan said.

“Not one technical breach in a decade”

As concerns around cybersecurity grow by the day, banking and financial services is possibly the most volatile sector given they are sitting on tonnes of confidential customer data. A recent finding by security solutions provider QuickHeal revealed that almost all Indian banking apps were affected by an Android malware called ‘Android.banker.A9480’, which was stealing users’ login credentials, thereby making netbanking unsafe.

ICICI Bank, however, denies any such security breach. “In the last 10 years, we have not had a single security issue from the technical point. Whatever breaches have happened was because the customer fell prey to social agents and ended up compromising their data willingly or unknowingly,” Balakrishnan clarified.

“Customer awareness and education is important, and we are working on that,” he added.

Innovations in iMobile

iMobile is already available in 11 Indian languages. Mera iMobile, as the multilingual version of the app is known, is specifically targeted at rural customers who get a host of information and updates (like crop prices, weather information, etc,) along with regular banking services. The bank also introduced an AI-led chatbot in the app that can handle 30-40 percent of the transactions by itself.

ICICI Bank reckons that the next trend in mobile banking would be voice-led banking. “As the Alexa, Siri and Cortana ecosystems mature, customers would move away from typing-led banking to voice-command-based transactions. We’d like to be on top of the voice trend,” Balakrishnan noted.

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