We all know RB Jacobs – the FNB social media guy that everyone has come to love. But FNB is lucky enough to also have a CEO that is personally active on Twitter too. Heavy Chef got the opportunity to chat to Michael Jordaan, who not only serves as the Chief Executive Officer of First National Bank, but also as an Executive Committee Member of the FirstRand Banking Group. Here is what he had to say about their new GeoPayment system and FNB’s approach to social media. We also try our luck extracting information in order to form a visual of the mysterious RB Jacobs.
More so than your competitors in recent years, it appears that FNB has pushed the envelope when it comes to innovative bank offerings. Do you still consider yourselves a bank, in light of the fact that FNB have broken into so many diverse fields?
Of course. Banking is in our DNA and we will always strive to be a great bank above anything else. But the traditional definition of banking has been challenged for some time now and the banking industry is being stretched to provide a customer experience that is fresh and relevant. Banks are extending themselves into the technology space, retail companies into the banking space and tech companies into the insurance space. It’s important to us at FNB that we push the boundaries of traditional banking to give our customers a more comprehensive service offering and increasingly more enjoyable banking experience.
The new GeoPayment system has raised the bar in terms of bank innovation in South Africa. In our research at Heavy Chef, we see that South Africans are still pretty skittish with regards to security. How secure is the system exactly?
GeoPayments is an extraordinary new person-to-person payment mechanism that allows our customers to make payments to each other and non-FNB customers using the FNB App and locationbased technology. We believe it is another step towards using lower cost banking channels, particularly self-service and digital channels, which are becoming more and more prevalent around the world.
However, while it’s great to launch new innovations, it is clearly extremely important that our customers feel safe while using the technology and it is in the bank’s interest to protect against fraud as much as possible. GeoPayments uses a pin system, similar to that of an ATM pin or chip pin, which is entered by the payer before executing the payment. We also require two people to be in close proximity so that they identify each other and acknowledge the payment face-to-face.
There has been much debate about the new start-up, 22seven. Many banks seem to feel threatened by this service, but FNB immediately showed support. This appeared to put a stake in the ground that FNB was innovative and progressive – which in turn led to a host of tech savvy South Africans reconsidering their choice of bank. Was this a planned strategy, or is the service simply not a threat to FNB’s customers?
Once again, at FNB we really do just want to provide an exceptional banking experience to our customers. 22seven’s product offering is something that we didn’t already provide and yet we felt that it would be a useful tool that could help our customers with their personal financial planning. The concern by the other banks around protection of information is a valid one, but we have found a way to protect customer information through setting up secondary user profiles. This allows customers safe access to the 22seven tools should they want to use them.
FNB have a great handle on their social media platforms and customer engagement. Is this a conscious strategy or do you think it’s more an overflow from the progressive nature of the bank in recent years?
Our involvement in social media was never a conscious strategy, but has evolved as the needs of our customers have changed and as the world of technology has progressed. I started Tweeting because it was a fascinating concept, and before long I realised the power of social media to communicate with our customers and to gauge the sentiment towards FNB and the banking industry in general over time. However, as FNB’s social media presence has grown, we have had to become more intentional about our social media strategy, viewing it both as a branding platform for the bank and a communication tool for our customers to use regularly.
Lastly, what does RB Jacobs really look like? I’m thinking Ryan Gosling, but other have suggested Jonah Hill.
Certainly if RB Jacobs did look like Ryan Gosling he would get far less Tweets and far more face-to-face interactions. I’ll leave it to your imagination.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, Michael.
Follow Michael Jordaan on Twitter here.