21 October 2017
Find out more

Finextra Leadership: Tangerine's direct banking pioneer

23 February 2015  |  8261 views  |  0 Charaka Kithulegoda, CIO, Tangerine

As chief information officer at Canadian direct bank Tangerine, Charaka Kithulegoda is at the forefront of the drive to take financial services mobile. He talks to Finextra about how technology is changing the banking landscape.

Tangerine was founded in 1997 as ING Direct, the first direct banking outpost established by its Dutch parent. Renamed in 2012 following an acquisition by Scotiabank, by the end of 2013 the firm claimed over 1.8 million customers and held close to $40 billion in total assets.

Initially serving clients over the phone, Tangerine quickly became a primarily Internet-based provider, and is now in the midst of a second delivery revolution as customers increasingly manage their finances through their mobile phones.

Overseeing the transition is CIO Kithulegoda, a 16 year Tangerine veteran who says that adoption of mobile is happening far faster than the earlier online migration. With this in mind, the bank has taken an iterative approach to its mobile app, regularly updating it since its first appearance in 2010.

Five years ago customers may have been happy to bank on a mobile website but, says Kithulegoda, today people expect far more from the handsets and the providers - in all industries - that deliver services through them. "So to do that, the only way to do that, is to watch how our clients behave, to listen to what our clients want, and to iterate."

One area where client expectations are in flux is security. Last autumn Tangerine was an early adopter of Apple's Touch ID fingerprint technology, using it to let customers access the Orange Snapshot balance checking feature. Touch ID will soon be coming to the full Tangerine app but Kithulegoda is clear that this will be in addition to, not instead of, a passcode.

This is a more cautious approach than that taken by UK giant RBS, which has just announced that customers can login with only their fingerprint. Kithulegoda says that the reticence to ditch the passcode is more to do with customer expectations than security, with Tangerine reluctant to push users too far too fast. However, he adds: "I think that in some point in time we should give our customers the option of saying ‘use only biometrics’."

Another area in which Tangerine is experimenting is voice control. For Kithulegoda voice control's real advantage over touch is in the field of wearables such as smartwatches, where there is little space for touch-based commands.

But, the bank is discovering through its pilot, voice throws up a host of challenges. "I’ll give you an example of something we saw, its funny but its true," says Kithulegoda. "So we said that...if you want to confirm a transaction or cancel a transaction, the way that people would do it is that we’d ask a question: 'Do you want to proceed with the transfer?' and you’d say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ right?"

Unfortunately, living up to the Canadian stereotype for politeness, Tangerine found that "a large number of our clients in the pilot are saying thankyou."

Tangerine is also looking into the potential of video conferencing as a way to bring the human touch to digital banking, although Kithulegoda is unconvinced by the attempts of many banks, such as BofA, to integrate the technology into ATMs.

"Why are we trying to build this technology into something that’s from the 70s when all of us carry at least one single device or multiple devices that can deliver that same interaction experience very seamlessly from within our pocket from wherever we want?" he asks. Not only is the ATM not the best delivery mechanism for video conferencing for the customer using it, it also inconveniences other users, suggests Kithulegoda: "I personally would be fairly annoyed if I got to stand in line waiting for someone to have a short conversation."

Nevertheless, Tangerine is actually piloting video conferencing at its own physical locations. The bank has recently been taking a pop-up site (it refuses to call it a branch) around Toronto, using it as a way to attract new customers, with staff helping people to sign up to accounts on mobile devices and then handing over to specialists in areas such as mortgages over video links.

Despite defining itself as a direct bank, Tangerine has several 'cafes' in major Canadian cities. However, like the pop-up, these are about customer acquisition and getting the brand out there, rather than normal branch-style services, says Kithulegoda.

"So you can walk into any of our cafes and say 'What is this Tangerine thing, what is it?' They find out what we are about, we’ve got some great people working, enthusiastic. They’ll tell you what Tangerine is all about. The person is excited, says 'OK I want to become a client'. The next step is very very different to a conventional branch. We walk you up to an iPad and say please scan your drivers license and take five minutes, answer a couple of questions and you will be able to become a client.

"We actually facilitate the transaction, we don’t do the transaction. So again we introduce people, even new customers, to the use of technology and how easy it is to deal with us using technology from step one. So seamlessly you can walk into one of our cafes and within five to 10 minutes walk out having your debit card and being a client, all using technology."

Comments: (0)

Comment on this story (membership required)

Finextra news in your inbox

For Finextra's free daily newsletter, breaking news flashes and weekly jobs board: sign up now

Related stories

Former ING Direct chief launches Canadian mobile banking service

Former ING Direct chief launches Canadian mobile banking service

27 January 2015  |  6130 views  |  3 comments | 5 tweets | 10 linkedin
Tangerine brings biometrics to mobile banking

Tangerine brings biometrics to mobile banking

01 October 2014  |  9743 views  |  0 comments | 8 tweets | 16 linkedin
Finextra Leadership: The rise of the bank challengers

Finextra Leadership: The rise of the bank challengers

11 August 2014  |  11752 views  |  2 comments | 19 tweets | 16 linkedin
Finextra Leadership: Life in the fast lane

Finextra Leadership: Life in the fast lane

01 August 2014  |  10238 views  |  1 comments | 5 tweets | 5 linkedin
Finextra Leadership: Sberbank's digital adventurer

Finextra Leadership: Sberbank's digital adventurer

20 June 2014  |  9945 views  |  1 comments | 14 tweets | 6 linkedin
Finextra Leadership: Open innovation at BBVA

Finextra Leadership: Open innovation at BBVA

16 May 2014  |  14055 views  |  0 comments | 21 tweets | 12 linkedin
ING Direct joins Canadian federated ID exchange network

ING Direct joins Canadian federated ID exchange network

03 December 2013  |  3990 views  |  0 comments | 3 tweets | 1 linkedin
From Facebook to voice recognition and biometrics, ING Direct plans mobile future

From Facebook to voice recognition and biometrics, ING Direct plans mobile future

21 March 2013  |  15810 views  |  2 comments | 30 tweets | 10 linkedin
Scotiabank agrees C$3.1bn ING Direct Canada acquisition

Scotiabank agrees C$3.1bn ING Direct Canada acquisition

30 August 2012  |  6527 views  |  0 comments
ING Direct guerilla marketing stunt makes a splash

ING Direct guerilla marketing stunt makes a splash

26 August 2010  |  14119 views  |  2 comments
ING forced to sell US Internet bank

ING forced to sell US Internet bank

26 October 2009  |  12688 views  |  2 comments

Related blogs

Create a blog about this story (membership required)
visit www.fivedegrees.nlvisit www.atos.net

Top topics

Most viewed Most shared
HSBC partners Bud for open banking trialHSBC partners Bud for open banking trial
9111 views comments | 22 tweets | 26 linkedin
satelliteGates Foundation backs Ripple collaboratio...
8729 views comments | 13 tweets | 10 linkedin
IBM uses blockchain to improve cross-border payments processingIBM uses blockchain to improve cross-borde...
7842 views comments | 9 tweets | 17 linkedin
Sibos 2017: API or the highwaySibos 2017: API or the highway
7328 views comments | 10 tweets | 22 linkedin
Eight banks form joint venture to launch blockchain trade platformEight banks form joint venture to launch b...
6947 views comments | 14 tweets | 23 linkedin

Featured job

Competitive base + commission + benefits
Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway or Sweden

Find your next job