Poland’s mBank has been internationally recognised as one of the world’s most innovative lenders. Charles Wheeldon talks to the bank’s senior digital channels director, Piotr Hibner, about mBank’s latest mobile banking application, its award-winning innovations, and its vision of a data-led future

Click to Call is mBank’s innovative new mobile telephone banking service that connects customers with its Polish call centre.

mBank’s senior director of digital channels Piotr Hibner tells RBI that the bank’s strategy to develop its mobile banking offering does not just involve developing the app as a separate digital channel, but aims to act as a bridge between the digital and physical world.

Hibner says that with internet banking there is a distinct division between the physical world and the internet realm, but adds mobile banking is different because people often use their smartphones while they are actually in the physical world of stores, in the cinema, in the streets and so on.

Realising that it had not fully exploited its mobile offering led mBank to attempt to develop mobile banking multi-channel functionality, with Hibner describing the desire to make it ‘our central channel gate’, offering access to other channels, not only internet banking, but to its call centres and in-branch advisors.

So in the knowledge that it already had plenty of connections between its physical bank and its call centre, mBank set out to create a convenient feature for mobile customers, enabling them to access personal assistance when making financial decisions.

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Click to Call, Hibner says, is particularly convenient because when users click for connection to the call centre, they do not need to remember their call centre passwords or customer numbers, or deal with any interactive voice response (IVR): They just log into the application, press a button, and are directly connected to an adviser.

“Just one click and all the customer’s identification data goes into the background,” Hibner sums up.

But what if someone else has got hold of your smartphone? If someone knows the PIN on your phone, Hibner responds, it is just like losing your credit card with its PIN or your wallet, pointing out that it is much safer from a banking point of view to lose your phone than your cards or wallet. Plus, customers can block their mobile banking app via their internet banking or a call centre, and the service has a default feature limiting amounts for non-authorised transactions.

Once connected to an adviser, the usual security questions are asked to ascertain identity should customers wish to transfer money into other accounts.

After just a few months Call to Click already accounts for almost 20% of incoming calls to the call centre, and Hibner points out that customers contact the centre on average maybe four or five times a year whereas use of the mobile banking app is closer to 250 times a year.

Hibner goes on to explain some of mBank’s other recent innovations. Last year it introduced One Click Credit for customers short of money in their accounts. Each mBank customer is pre-scored with an approved credit limit and should they require money instantly they are able to log into the app and a credit application is presented to them on a single screen.

Entering the amount they need, customers are then offered the opportunity to select the number of monthly repayment instalments preferred, and the money is transferred into their accounts within 30 seconds. The limit of the personal loans via One Click Credit is PLN50,000 ($12,130) and Hibner says in the past month almost 20% of the bank’s total cash loans, including branches and call centres, were sold via the mobile app.

Another innovation is mBank’s travel insurance product. Again customers log in and go to a single screen, select either Poland, Europe or worldwide travel, and the number of people travelling, hit the button and their cover is in place immediately. Global insurer Axa provides the product for mBank.

Hibner emphasises the convenience for customers out shopping who, on a whim, decide on a purchase which can be made there and then, or being in transit to the airport, or even inside it, can obtain their holiday insurance – all in under a minute.

He also stresses that in Poland all financial products can be purchased online from all the banks, with the exception of mortgages and life insurance which he describes as ‘a little more complicated’.

Hibner is proud of the recognition that mBank has received in recent years for its products and services innovation, and for different parts of its business model and marketing. Its physical distribution network has also been recognised for its innovative design.

“mBank locates its branches in big shopping malls and shopping galleries,” he says. “We don’t have any doors with bodyguards or anything like that.

“I would say our  branches are more akin to Zara or H&M. They are inviting to customers, with an open design and set among interesting shops. So we have won prizes for different sorts of innovations in very different areas. Our marketing platform is very advanced.”

Real-time marketing and customer relationship marketing are particular areas for which mBank has been recognised.

Hibner says: “We don’t, for example, spam our customers and we don’t send our communications to the whole customer base. Take for example the travel insurance that I mentioned before. If we see that you have bought flight tickets using our credit card and if you are near the airport – because our mobile banking app uses geo-location – we will send you a personal notification saying: ‘Hey, are you travelling? Maybe you need travel insurance.’

“It’s very contextual. For every customer we can send communications based on his or her behaviour and context. And we have hundreds of different marketing campaigns tailored to customer behaviour in real time.

“If you are trying to use your credit card, but your credit card balance has ended so that you cannot use your card to pay, in real time we can offer you an increase in your credit card limit. We have hundreds of different campaigns every day. And for our energy and our approach we have received a number of international awards.”

Hibner also talks of the recognition mBank has picked up for its internet banking platform, which he describes as very advanced, with personal finance management, peer-to-peer money transfers, as well as other features.

He is also particularly enthusiastic about the bank’s automated statements offering. “For example if you pay monthly for your electricity, phone, or internet, you have to log in and arrange money transfers.

“We take advantage of big data and try in advance to find repeating transactions on customer accounts and send personal messages.

“For example, today is the 16th, and usually on the 16th you pay for your electricity. Do you wish to pay it right now? So this is like a financial advisory service.

“We are finding customers’ patterns and we try to offer them something like a reminder, so they don’t have to keep in mind when to pay for this or for that.”

This all may sound a little unusual for banking consumers in cultures such as the UK used to paying for regular items via standing orders and direct debits.

“Polish customers want to have the control,” Hibner says. “Maybe the bill is too high. How would you know that, if it’s paid automatically? And after it’s been paid do you want all the bother if sending off a complaint?” he chuckles.

“So it’s better for customers in Poland that they see their bills first and then log in and pay. We tried,” he continues, “to adopt direct debit, but the adoption was very low, below 5% in fact.

“In our mobile banking app we have also implemented several pre-login scenarios. For example, to see your credit card limit or current account balance, you don’t even have to log in. You just open the app and before you log in you can see the most important information that you need.”

For those worried about security, this feature offers three possibilities. Customers can turn it off if they are worried about others seeing how much money they’ve got. Alternatively the feature can be set as a percentage.

Hibner continues: “So, for example, if for you, 100% is £10,000 ($12,150), and you have £2,000 in your account, the screen will simply say you have 20%. So it’s like hidden information that only you can understand. Thirdly, you can set the information for the exact amount if you are not concerned that anyone else will have access to your phone.”
Hibner goes on to outline mBank’s several mobile payment offerings.

“You can use your phone to pay NFC payments, or Polish payment standards, or more country-specific payment standards.

“So we have a joint venture with nine larger Polish banks and all together we develop Polish payments standards. Every bank has the same standard, so the scale is meaningful, it’s not that every bank is trying to do something independently. Together we have developed one common payment standard.”

Looking forward, Hibner says mBank is assessing the functionality of the mobile banking channel because one of its strategic pillars is to review the functional gap between mobile banking and internet banking.

“Usually mobile banking is very simple. Customers look at the account balance or check their payment history or send a money transfer. But we’ve noticed that we have a lot of mobile-only customers, especially among the younger generation.
“They won’t even possess computers soon, because the only device they use is their mobile telephone. So that’s why we have to develop more features and functionality for the mobile banking application – so that our mobile-only customers can use the app as the only channel to manage their finances.

In conclusion, Hibner refers to the amount of information mBank has about its customers and how this is affecting the bank’s current and future thinking.

“We have details of transactions, salaries, behaviour and so on, so our credit scoring is soundly based on customer behaviour.

“And for each customer we can say: ‘Okay, you are trustworthy. We can give you PLN20,000 or PLN30,000, and be confident that we have made a sound commercial decision.’”