22nd February 2024 5:03 pm
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Standard Bank offers Prestige and Private customers personal bankers on WeChat

Standard Bank has officially launched its “always on, anytime, anywhere” banking service, Relationship Banking Instant Messaging, at its PlayRoom location in Rosebank.

The service gives Prestige and Private bank account holders access to their own personal banker via WeChat, who they can ask anything banking-related, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Standard Bank says that the service is intended to help people get answers or provide information that they’d otherwise have to phone the bank or visit a branch to do.

Should an ATM swallow your card, for instance,or you’d like to report suspected fraud, or you need your credit limit raised and you’re overseas, you can use WeChat to raise these queries no matter where you are or what time it is. You won’t have to wait for a bank to open or stand in a queue; you won’t even even need to go to the bank at all.

It’s not a standalone Standard Bank app, either – rather, it’s an official channel on WeChat, so Standard hasn’t had to build it from the ground up. Instead, it uses WeChat’s existing app and infrastructure, which also means it’s available on any platform that supports the app. It’s quite a smart move by the bank as it reduces the complexity of providing the service.

Customers can sign up by providing the bank with their WeChat ID, and once they’ve gone through a verification process, they’ll be granted access to the service.

The catch

Of course, there’s a catch: it’s not yet available for every Standard Bank account holder.

Standard Bank’s representatives told the assembled audience that they have plans to roll it out to more of their customers in time, but that they needed a platform from which to begin, and the opportunity to make sure it works as intended before rolling the service out to a wider audience.

When asked about what sort of technical support will be available to anyone who struggles with the service for whatever reason, Standard told us that support for RBIM will be provided by the bank’s existing support structures.

Presumably to drive the point home that the service is “always on”, Standard is working hand in hand with AlwaysOn, the Wifi hotspot provider, to give everyone who signs up for the RBIM service three gigabytes of Wifi hotspot data. Unfortunately that’s not a monthly offer; rather it’s a one-off gift that lasts for three months, and when it’s all used up or it expires, consumers need to buy more.

Still, it’s a handy way to let people use the service at the various AlwaysOn hotspots around the country rather than with their comparatively pricey mobile data, and an even handier way to encourage people to sign up for AlwaysOn Wifi hotspot data, so it’s a win-win.

Security a priority

Security is apparently top of Standard’s mind as well, so don’t expect to fire up WeChat and talk to your personal banker without verifying your identity first by jumping through a few hoops. And on your end, Standard expects you to look after your cell phone’s security with appropriate measures like PINs and passwords that lock anyone but you out of it. Fair enough, we say.

Requirements must be met

The requirements to sign up for the service are a bit steep, but not so much so that they’re out of reach for anyone but the One Per Cent. Qualifying for a Prestige account requires that you earn more than R25k a month before tax, or you have a three-year undergraduate degree with honours or higher, and you earn more than R5k a month.

Also, you can’t call something “Prestige” and then just hand it out to anyone, so the qualifying criteria is understandable. In case you were wondering about fees, apparently having a personal banker who’s just an instant message away is built into the benefits of a Prestige account, which costs R179 per month.

Qualifying for a Private account requires the following, according to the bank’s website:

“You earn a minimum gross monthly income of R 58 000 or more or have net investible assets of R 3m or more
You completed a classic professional degree within the last 3 years at a South African university
As a young professional, you are employed or in training while being employed to become a chartered accountant, actuary, medical doctor or specialist, engineer, attorney or advocate.”

Should you qualify, your Private account – and having a personal banker on call – will cost R325 a month.

Rich people first

It’s good to see Standard Bank upping its game with this sort of service, and giving people who’re used to interacting with the world (and each other) via their phones and tablets a way to interact with the bank that is closer aligned with their lifestyles. Not to mention a whole lot more convenient than by queueing during branch hours.

And while it’s not all that great that the feature is rolled out first to people who are comparatively wealthy, Standard has at least indicated its intention to bring the service to more of its customers over time.

We expect to hear more from them once Standard’s 370 000 Prestige and Private Banking customers have trialled it, so hang in there, Standard Bank customers whose salaries don’t have five figures and start with a “2” and a “5”.

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