In today's fast-paced, ever changing payment environment, consumer purchases are motivated and driven by much easier, accessible, convenient and secure ways of paying.
"In line with our ongoing pursuit of providing innovative solutions and services that enhance customer experience, we have a portfolio of innovations with significant benefits to our customers," says Arrie Rautenbach, Head of Retail Markets at Absa.
He adds: "Our customer base has become increasingly diversified and more sophisticated. We have consistently endeavoured to innovate with our payment options in line with the evolving customer needs and trends."
Some of the initiatives that demonstrate the group's commitment to sustainable innovative solutions include the following:
* Contactless payments: The "tap-and-go" payment allows consumers to conveniently pay for low value purchases in retail outlets and fares in public transport vehicles by simply tapping the contactless cards against the reader. Tap-and-go transactions are limited to R200 per day and users will be able to load a maximum of R1 500 on the card at any time. The total monthly transactional limit is R3 000.
* In-store Banking: In 2011, Absa has extended the application and use of its Point-of-Sale devices to include basic banking transactions which can now be performed in-store at selected merchants. In addition to conducting normal purchases, we now offer consumers the ability to perform basic banking transactions such as cash-in and cash-out transactions, the purchase air-time, obtaining mini-statements and the checking of balances at point-of-sale machines) at registered merchants. This innovation extends Absa's reach nationally and promotes financial inclusion, while creating foot-flow and additional revenue streams for the retailers.
* Remote Account Opening App: This Android-based smartphone and tablet device enables the opening of bank accounts and the issue of debit cards to new customers in less than 10 minutes. The on-device application scans one's ID book to identify and verify the customer's details, captures all the relevant information and enables the imaginge relevant information and enables the imaging of supporting documents.
* Absa CashSend™: CashSend makes receiving and sending money quick and easy. It allows Absa customers to electronically transfer funds by using their card at an Absa ATM, a self-service kiosk, mobile banking or internet banking, to a recipient. The latter is then able to withdraw the funds at an Absa ATM using only a reference number and access code - without needing a card or bank account.
* Pay in Your Currency™: It will allow international customers to enjoy the confidence and convenience of paying for their bills in the currency they understand best - their own.
"By pioneering these initiatives in the South African banking industry to ensure convenience, accessibility, safety and efficiencies for customers and consumers, Absa has positioned itself as a leader in banking and financial services," states Rautenbach. "Our innovative and customised solutions have turned us into a bank of choice in South Africa for many."
He adds: "In line with customer expectations, we are committed to innovating on an on-going basis. This is significant as the ways of payments have evolved and continue to evolve."
Looking at possible future trends in payments, Rautenbach projects that, unsurprisingly, the mobile phones will become the key device for making payments.
According to the 2011 World Wide Worx's Mobility report, 44% of urban mobile-phone users now access banking services via phones. Customers aged between 26 and 34 years are the highest users at 41%, while 11% of people older than 45 utilise it.
"What makes Absa's contactless or 'tap and go' developments so significant is that these solutions provide the key gateway to mobile transactions. To provide a consistent and seamless service to retail merchants with regard to card payments, our cards are becoming virtual, they are moving to mobile, and - going forward - consumers will simply need to tap their mobile phones against the same readers to pay with their mobile phones in future," says Rautenbach.
"With the above in mind, we expect that over the next five years, the mobile-phone will become a commonly used device for effecting payments. Absa is already playing in that space. Keep an eye out for impending innovative firsts from Absa in this domain," hints Rautenbach.
He emphasises that Absa continues to invest substantial human capital and finances into retail banking technology and innovation.
"While consumers clearly have a strong appetite for new ways to pay for their purchases, we continue to educate them about the safe usage of these platforms. There is still work to be done in this regard and banks, acquirers and merchants also need to promote the benefits of contactless and mobile payments.
"Breeding familiarity will lead to a growth in usage, and ultimately, allow both consumers and merchants to benefit from faster check out and convenience," concludes Rautenbach.