Photo of Retail Banker International editor Douglas BlakeyIf you are a
retail banking professional, our new blog, Retail Banker
Interactive (
is the place for you to engage with your peers.

So come on, contribute to a forum,
vote on a poll or write a blog. All of this can be done behind the
anonymity of your username – so be as provocative as you dare.

If you want to become a blogger,
please contact me at There is
also a £100 gift voucher to spend on iTunes or Amazon on offer for
the best blog of the month.

I am not looking for Booker Prize
prose. Rather, I will be looking for original, thought (and
comment) provoking views on all manner of retail banking

Launching on 5 September, in
association with Finacle from Infosys, Retail Banker Interactive
will feature monthly webinars, forums and surveys in addition to
offering the opportunity to share views and exchange ideas. The
first webinar, on 29 September, will focus on social banking.

The banking sector is generally
recognised as having been painfully slow to embrace social media.
Although banks around the world claim they want to sign up the
younger generation as customers, too many banks for too long paid
lip service to social media.

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They played at it. Facebook pages
were uploaded. Twitter accounts opened. The results in many cases
were pitiful.

Many senior bankers with whom I
spoke dismissed social media as a fad. Others were negative because
they said it was impossible to gauge a return in investment.
Bluntly, they could not assess how many accounts were opened or
products sold as a result of social media campaign.

A number of senior retail bankers
could not even explain where, within the bank, social media should

Was it a subject for the marketing
department? Or the communications department?

And then there were privacy and
security concerns: always an excuse to do nothing.

Although such concerns require
banks to be cautious, there are compelling reasons why they lenders
need to embrace social media:

  • customers are receptive to the
    idea of a social ‘customer service’ channel;
  • customers want to participate in
    financial product development and social networks provide the ideal
    co-creation platform; and
  • customers trust banks that are
    transparent and open in communication. Social networks score big in
    this aspect, stripping customer engagement of any official veneer,
    and allowing customers to directly connect with their banks.

Amid the apathy or lethargy, a few
shining examples stand out.

In the US, Bank of America, Wells
Fargo and especially Citigroup, have thrown themselves
enthusiastically into social media activity.

In the UK, HSBC’s direct banking
arm first direct has led the way – no surprises there. But Royal
Bank of Scotland and Barclays, in promoting their rugby and
football sponsorships, respectively, have also been active and
successful in social media.

In Australia, National Australia
Bank has led the way. In a matter of a few weeks at the start of
the year, its break-up campaign – a promotion engaging social media
platforms such as Twitter and YouTube to attract customers from
rival banks – paid off handsomely.

But perhaps the most astonishing
increase in banking social media activity this year has been in

When RBI ranked the
world’s biggest banks in terms of Facebook likes in mid-January,
Turkish lenders Akbank and Garanti both had less than 50,000

Fast forward 7 months – and Akbank
and Garanti each have around 500,000 facebook fans – an astonishing
10-fold increase.

The next challenge is how best to
engage with its social media-savvy customers.

Which banks do you think are
pursuing a successful social media strategy?

Do tell me what you think.

Douglas Blakey