Premium FNB clients must now download the app to qualify for eBucks and log in at least once a month. The bank's new move, which focuses on a tech-savvy consumer, has left some of its older, more loyal clients behind. Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha

FNB’s new app requirement has caused consternation among some of its senior clients, who were happy with the status quo, writes Georgina Crouth.

 

Online and cellphone banking have been game-changers for the industry. No longer required to visit the branch, clients can do transactions electronically and banks have streamlined their operations.

But that convenience has come at a cost: cybercrime. To stay ahead of the crooks, banks have needed to become more innovative by introducing the latest security measures.

And clients can’t very well be banking online if they don’t have the necessary protections.

With so many developments on that front, FNB’s announcement in July that it would be linking its eBucks programme with its “award-winning” banking app almost snuck in under the radar.

Premium clients must now download the app to qualify for eBucks and log in at least once a month.

The bank said: “The bulk of FNB Premium clients are already using the FNB banking app and we continue to see the platform becoming a one-stop shop for many clients. While the app is popular for seamlessly enabling clients to save, invest, borrow or even apply for a pre-approved home loan, users also get personalised offers for insurance, investments or credit that is suitable to their finances.”

The statement further explains how its “rich functionality” enables clients to easily manage their accounts, view their ATM PIN, transfer money and block and unblock credit cards. eBucks customers can now manage their eBucks or find partner stores, getting access benefits, vouchers and coupons, discounts and “a whole lot more”.

“We encourage all our Premium clients, comprising FNB Premier, FNB Private Clients, FNB Private Wealth and RMB Private Bank, to take advantage of the efficiency of the FNB banking app. The platform is compatible with all smartphones and clients can also connect via FNB’s ConnectSIM offering, where they pay no data charges for using our app while earning up to 40 percent back on their spend.”

From September 1, FNB’s also offered affordable smartphones which are pre-loaded with that app that allows customers to make free calls to FNB call centres and data-free usage of the app.

Sometimes though, big ideas lose sight of minor details... such as the target market. By focusing on a tech-savvy consumer, FNB’s left some of its older, more loyal clients behind.

Fact is: not everyone has a smartphone or wants to be made to feel like a dinosaur because they don’t have an aptitude for an app or the latest “device”.

Here are a few complaints I received this week: “We have had our FNB (Barclay’s) cards since the 1970s - yet after these many years of custom, it is becoming apparent that FNB is determined to root out their older or less sophisticated clients by making it as difficult as possible to operate as previously. I feel devalued and upset,” read SA Bulkin’s mail.

“We are seriously inconvenienced and disgusted. As a matter of fact, we have found our local branches to be extremely unhelpful in other matters and to have to make a special trip and set aside the long time necessary for visits to them on a regular basis to acquire statements fills me with trepidation. It is obvious that only electronic banking customers are desired by FNB.”

Andrew Johnston wrote: “It would seem FNB has forgotten the basic tenet of business: to give the customer what he or she wants and not dictate how they should operate. I, and it would seem many others, have no intention of acquiring a smartphone, from FNB or elsewhere, nor have any desire to do cellphone banking. As a loyal FNB client over many years, I enjoy the eBucks loyalty programme. Let’s hope FNB will listen to its clients as per their promise: How can we help you?”

Peter Radue said: “Just what does FNB hope to achieve by forcing card users to download the FNB app to earn eBucks other than to alienate a number of users who no doubt have been supporting the FNB card division for years?

“I certainly have no desire to own or use a smartphone and my complaints to the eBucks hotline, my personal banker and my local branch regarding the new rules have been met with indifference.

“The reply in your column of September 19 from the chief executive of FNB Premium that the bulk of clients are using the FNB app and that FNB clients are able to take up an affordable smartphone deal at select branches does not sweeten this arrangement.

“(Here’s) hoping the numerous complaints will result in a review of this ridiculous decision.”

The app has caused consternation and FNB misjudged its customers.

As Allan Hedley Slotar, an FNB client for more than 50 years, said: “Now I feel like just a number on their computer. I use the internet to do my banking with anti-virus and anti-phishing software on my computer.

“I have a platinum credit card and used to get eBucks rewards on my purchases.

“Last month I get a message from FNB credit card informing me that unless I download their cellphone app and use it to access my bank account, they will no longer credit me with eBucks.

“This is an infringement on my choice of my banking security.

“What would happen if I use a phone that does not facilitate apps - will they supply a free phone?

“I find that my fingers very often press the wrong keys as the keys are small on the phone. I have wide fingers that cause errors...

“If there is fraud done on my account, they are going to ask me to prove how it was done.

“I know this from a friend who lost R40 000 from his account and was never compensated.

“I am 75 years old and cannot see the screen on the phone without glasses and find navigating on a small screen difficult and inconvenient.

“I have started to move my credit card purchase to some other bank’s card.

“This is discrimination against older people as well as against those who cannot afford a fancy cellphone that accommodates apps.”

This brand fail is all the more apparent in view of its “How can we help you?” slogan because it undermines its most loyal customers by taking away earned privileges.

After all, gold cards might be common currency nowadays but you don’t become a Platinum card holder because you earn a few thousand rand.

FNB underestimated its older clients.

In a swift turnaround, it now acknowledges its mistake and back-pedalled on the app requirement, but only for the over-sixties.

Raj Makanjee, chief executive for FNB Premium, told me: “FNB has taken note of client feedback regarding the need to make use of the FNB banking app in order to earn eBucks and as a result, we will be revising the rule for FNB Premium clients who are over the age of 60.

“For these FNB Premium customers, we will revert to the (previous) rule and (they) will continue to be rewarded for using any of FNB’s electronic channels and they can choose to transact via online banking, cellphone banking, telephone banking (interactive voice response only) or use the app at least once a month. These changes will be effective from October 1, 2016.

“The rule for our FNB Private Wealth and RMB Private Bank clients aged 60 years and above will be waivered, meaning the use of FNB’s electronic banking channels rule will not apply.”

Clients under 60 are still required to download the app but they’ve extended the deadline to January 31.

* Georgina Crouth is a consumer watchdog with serious bite. Write to her at [email protected]

** Follow on Georgina Crouth on Twitter: @askgeorgie