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And the best digital bank of 2018 is...

According to modern insights agency Columinate's 2018 SITEisfaction report, FNB has been named the best digital bank by owning both the best mobile banking and best internet banking categories...
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Launched in 2012, Columinate’s SITEisfaction survey is an annual measure of customer satisfaction with digital banking services in South Africa and rates each banking institution with a SITEisfaction score out of a possible 100. The report is the only one of its kind to focus exclusively on these digital services and it reveals the behaviours and experiences of South African banks’ online customers.

Interesting to note is FNB’s rise in satisfaction levels was not as prominent as Capitec’s decline in satisfaction levels. This declining three-year trend may cost Capitec’s its reputation as a disruptor, and is likely due to Capitec’s customers punishing the bank for the platform’s frequent unavailability.

Capitec still outperformed Nedbank, Standard Bank, and Absa


Despite Capitec losing its footing, it still outperformed Nedbank, Standard Bank, and Absa by a large margin. This is a critical lesson for new entrants such as Tyme, Bank Zero, and Discovery to ensure they create a stable infrastructure, with little to no breaks in service or platform interruptions.

Best digital bank


Customers’ satisfaction with their primary banks’ total banking experience have steadily and significantly been improving over the course of the last seven years. However, the SITEisfaction score with overall internet banking solutions has not enjoyed a similar improvement and continues to lag behind with a meagre 10 point rise from 54 in 2012 to 64 in 2018.

FNB claimed the top honours in the internet banking category, even though its customers scored them slightly lower this year (75 in 2018, down from 78 in 2017). The win can largely be attributed to the consistent good experience across all of FNB’s digital channels, but is also partially due to Capitec’s sporadic platform inaccessibility.

Capitec marked a greater decline in internet banking satisfaction due to this intermittent unavailability, dropping from 78 in 2017 to 70 in 2018. Bronze medallist Nedbank (51 in 2017 vs 60 in 2018), Standard Bank (51 in 2017 vs 55 in 2018), and Absa (44 in 2017 vs 48 in 2018) all showed improvement, with Nedbank and Absa receiving its highest scores in the category to date.

Absa has also shown the greatest improvement curve with its customers’ satisfaction levels consistently growing over the course of the last three years.

Standard Bank still has a way to go to return to their former glory of 66 back in 2015, when they were propelled to second place after launching their new Internet Banking site, now three years old. Standard Bank is still toggling between the two platforms, which may further explain its unchanging score.

“It is worth noting that the rise in internet banking SITEisfaction scores are driven predominantly by secondary users, those who use these platforms in addition to another bank’s platform, as primary users report little change,” says Columinate’s co-founder and CEO, Dr Henk Pretorius.

“Secondary users will inevitably have a greater impact on the score because they’ve had the opportunity to compare site layouts, functionality, products, and services. The greater degree of competition is excellent for the industry as it assists the banks in developing more comprehensive products and services, as well as creating more intuitive and secure user-interfaces for their various service portals. But the converse is also true: banks can no longer create products and services in isolation – their customers know what’s on offer elsewhere.”

Best mobile bank


This category takes a holistic look at all the mobile banking solutions banks offer, from mobile applications to mobi-sites for both mobile phones and tablets.

FNB scored two points higher in this year’s SITEisfaction study, netting them a tidy 82 to top the charts.

Capitec suffered a minor setback, scoring three points less this year, but still putting up a very respectable 80.

Standard Bank and Nedbank showed virtually no movement, both scoring 70 points, and Absa suffered a two-point loss, trailing the field with 63 points. While FNB’s tablet app is rated the best application in the tablet category, it has to share the top spot with Capitec for best smartphone app.

“We noticed the trend in the data about the rising popularity of mobile banking apps and subsequently added the category to our 2015 report – a mobile banking app is increasingly being seen as a trustworthy portal to conduct banking affairs. The data also indicates that customers would prefer to use the app for anything that will save them a visit to the branch, from applying for new bank cards, opening new accounts, or even getting recent bank statements. It makes sense for the banks to focus on creating a secure, well-rounded service offering through their mobile banking applications,” says Pretorius.

Pretorius’ view is underpinned by the data, with 68% of users purchasing airtime via their mobile banking app, 57% of users purchasing data bundles, and 45% purchasing prepaid electricity.

The trend indicates that if there were more non-traditional banking options available that offer value and convenience, it would be adopted quickly – a great differentiator for any bank, especially for newcomers such as Tyme, Bank Zero, and Discovery.

The rise of the digital bank may prove to be quite a challenge to the traditional players, but their earlier foray into digital channels keeps them relevant in this new area of competitiveness.

Several banks have even started offering their customers zero-rated data charges to access their respective mobile banking apps free of charge, to combat the potential disruption posed by new market entrants. This move is likely based on some of the insights revealed by previous SITEisfaction reports.

Fraud at an all-time high


Digital banking fraud is at an all-time high and there’s been a steady increase in this trend over the last four years. While SITEisfaction recorded a marked increase in the awareness of potential fraud and scams across the board, 22% of users still fell victim to these criminals in the last year, up from 19% in 2017, 14% in 2016, and 12% in 2015.

A few new scams made their debut in 2018: 8% of users fell victim to the “You are a winner” Pay-to-Play scam; 13% of users fell victim to the advanced “Free Loan” / “Prequalified Loan or Credit Card” scam; 4% of users were taken advantage of with the “Request for Help” email fraud (which is the natural evolution of the 419 scam – asking for help and promising riches in return.

Incidentally, 6% of users fell victim to the traditional 419 scam). Phishing scams are still a frequent occurrence, with 36% of respondents being targeted, and 7% falling victim to it in the last year.

“When it comes to the world of mobile banking, security ought to be the utmost priority and concern – as technological counter-measures evolve, so do criminals. While a handful of banks did take the initiative to educate their customers on the looming threats, the message is far from reaching saturation in the South African market. The onus is on the banks to create banking platforms that are as secure as they are perceived to be, and to continually remind customers about new and potential threats – if they can get the security right, we’d have the tools to create a truly end-to-end digital banking solution, with less need to visit a branch ever again”, concludes Pretorius.

To date, the SITEisfaction survey has engaged more than 13,000 internet and digital banking users, focusing specifically on the trends that shape the digital banking landscape.
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