Abonty Banerjee, Head, Digital Channels, ICICI Bank On Why The Bank Launched #icicibankpay

Abonty Banerjee, GM and Head, Digital Channels ICICI bank talks about why the bank has launched #icicibankpay and how it is trying to reach out to youth on Twitter


Indian banks are coming out of the withheld notion that social media is all about running contests on Facebook and trending on Twitter. Most of the forward thinking banks are now integrating social media with their banking services to make the new-age customers’ life easy. One of them has been ICICI Bank, India’s largest private bank and one of the early adopters of technology and social media.

After launching a fleet of mobile banking apps, earlier last month ICICI launched ICICIbankpay in association with Twitter India. The first-of-its kind service in India that enables ICICI Bank customers to transfer money to anyone in the country who has a Twitter account, check account balance, view last three transactions and recharge prepaid mobile in a completely secure manner.

The service now allows, its savings account customer, who has a mobile number registered with the bank and has a Twitter account, to access the facilities of ICICIbankpay. The customer can send money to anyone in India even if the recipient does not have an ICICI Bank savings account. However, customers can send up to Rs. 5,000 per transaction with a limit of Rs. 10,000 per day; online NEFT charges will be applied. Besides both the recipient and the sender need to have a Twitter account.

ICICI Bank may have been one of those banks which started slow on social media but it was one of the first banks to spread the idea of banking via Facebook in India with its Pockets app.

Launched in late 2013, ‘Pockets by ICICI Bank’ assured a safe, simple and social way of banking, while one was on Facebook. In addition, it also offered features like recharging prepaid mobile phones and booking movie tickets for a group of people. All one needed to do was register on the Facebook app with their debit card number and PIN.

#ICICIbankpay focused on Twitter users

Given that Facebook is the largest social network in the country and Indian youth are hooked on to the network, the move was a well thought one. But Twitter is yet to find a strong ground in the country, leaving aside the concern whether it is a popular network among the youth who have multiple options like WhatsApp and Snapchat.

Abonty BanerjeeThere isn’t a doubt that India is the fastest growing country for the 140-character network but banking via Twitter, are the millennials up for it?

Abonty Banerjee, GM and Head, Digital Channels justified the bank’s move in a recent talk with Lighthouse Insights. “ICICI has a broad philosophy to launch products ahead of others and we also believe to be in spaces were customers are present. We have witnessed that today’s youth is also quite active on Twitter along with other social media platforms so we went ahead with this service launch.”

Competing with Kotak’s #Hashtagbanking

However, ICICI isn’t the only bank to bring banking for its customers on Twitter. Last year during the month of March, Kotak along with its digital agency had launched Jifi – a first-of-its-kind fully integrated social bank account designed for the tech-savvy socially connected generation of today. Jifi, a non-interest bearing account integrates social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook with mainstream banking for secure and seamless on-the-go information.

Jifi allows creation of your account by signing up via Facebook or email to get an invite. Account updates can be received on Twitter as a Direct Message (DM) by simply tweeting to the Twitter handle @KotakJifi with predefined hashtags. The bank’s dedicated Twitter handle @kotaksync will send out these messages, thereby eliminating human intervention and maintaining confidentiality.

Very recently it launched a social savings bank account – Jifi Saver which also facilitates bill payments, offers mobile and DTH recharge via Twitter, reward and transaction points, 25 free at par cheques per quarter and avail unlimited free transactions at Kotak ATMs.

At the launch the company stated that, “Jifi Saver will take care of online shopping, on-the-go transactions, financial planning, etc. It also offers all benefits and functionalities of a regular savings bank account.” Available in 27 cities across the country at present, Jifi Saver will enable customers earn savings interest rate offered to all savings account holders, i.e., 6 percent p.a. on balance of above Rs. 1 lakh and 5 percent on balance up to Rs. 1 lakh.”

We want to experiment with #ICICIbankpay and we feel that this generation would use it

ICICI is aware of the service but Abonty was quick to point  the big difference in both the services - ICICI is allowing money transfer via mobile which isn’t possible with Kotak Jifi. “Jifi does have social banking features similar to ours but they don’t send money on Twitter which we have. We also believe that transactional messaging is better dealt with direct messaging.”

She stressed on the belief that the youth would want the send money service,”We are not expecting very high value transactions but small regular value transactions for which you don’t need to log into the bank’s website, one can just do it while being on Twitter. We want to experiment with this service and we feel that this generation would use it.”

Technology and security

Elaborating on the backend technology, Abonty informed that there is a listener in the secure server and once any message comes the listener gets activated which interprets the message. “If it is a transaction related enquiry then we take the message and connect with the NEFT pipe for further processing. For a non-transactional messages the listener connects to the account registered with the mobile number and thereafter an update is sent back.”

Going further ICICI bank would be using social media to promote the service and educate the audience on Twitter. The bank’s website page already has a detailed explanation on how to use ICICIbankpay. “We are educating on the website with a set of FAQs and we are sending direct information to our customers whom we feel are the target audience. From emails, SMS, social media networks, all are being used to educate and promote.”

Services like this are bringing banking to platforms where customers are active today. But experts have expressed concern over the increasing use of social media by Indian banks, saying that transactional platforms do not conform to banking security standards and little is being done to educate customers in this regard.

Reported by ET, the number of reported cyber crimes rose from 13,301 in 2011 to 62,189 in just the first five months of 2014, according to a joint report by industry lobbies Assocham and Mahindra SSG, which cautions that if the past is any indication, relying on social media to access banking facilities might not be a secure option. “We keep getting cases of email accounts being hacked,” said KK Mookhey, director of Network Intelligence, an information security services provider.

ICICI takes security seriously and it has addressed all the concerns very clearly on all of its communication platforms. “Even if the user has not read our communications, still there isn’t a risk in using our services as there are multiple layers of security. For every transaction there is a two factor security check, after which the transaction is processed.”

Payments on Twitter is a safe and secure mode of banking with a two-factor authentication.

Along with all the above mentioned factors, the bank has provided cancellation feature and then there is a transactional limit. “The ICICI Facebook Pocket service which has been active for more than a year and half hasn’t had a single fraud till day,” informed Abonty.

ICICI Bank also states that fast adoption of services with present times has always benefited them. “Mobile transactions account for 10 per cent of our total transactions, increased from 2 per cent in 2.5 years.We have about 2.8 million customers on mobile banking, while about 15 million Internet banking users,” said Rajiv Sabharwal, Executive Director, ICICI Bank.

While Kotak with its hashtag banking is not just targeting the millennials but a much broader base, ICICI is going for the youth. Only time and upcoming earnings report would state how fruitful has been the early move by ICICI.