Banking in the age of Facebook, social mediaBy Doris C. Dumlao
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—With over 27 million Filipinos hooked to the world’s largest social networking platform Facebook, could this be an effective channel to promote financial literacy? Ayala-led Bank of the Philippine Islands thinks so and has thus grabbed an opportunity to reach out to people who may otherwise be intimated to go to a physical branch to discuss concerns about savings, investments or borrowing.
Southeast Asia’s oldest bank handpicked a few of its FB-savvy bankers aged between 25 and 52 from various departments to form a social networking team to answer queries and provide online financial advice. They are not nameless faces but are real BPI bankers tasked to interact with Facebook users, even if they are not existing BPI clients.
Thus was launched the BPI Bankers Online app, envisioned to lead more Filipinos—especially the young people who are typically upstart savers and investors—to financial wellness.
“With the bank’s 161 years of serving the Filipinos, BPI remains true to its commitment to keep up with the changing needs of our clients. We’ve made banking transactions easy through our 24/7 banking and now we go beyond the transactions to make it easy for customers to understand and have a meaningful connection with us as their bank,” says BPI senior vice president and integrated marketing head Marie Josephine Ocampo.
Although already one of the country’s largest banks with the widest retail customer base of 5.4 million, Ocampo says that many of these are “single-product” clients or those whose banking knowhow is limited to deposit placement.
“There’s really room to deepen their appreciation for planning for their future,” Ocampo says.
The potential for widening client base via FB is also exponential as the online interactions are seen leading to the acquisition of new bank clients as no money transactions will go through FB. Sooner or later, the clients will have to go to a branch.
“We have seen that the use of social media has become an integral part of Filipinos’ everyday lives; we are in fact among the top users in the world. Launching this app, we envision that BPI Bankers Online will democratize expert financial advice and lead Filipinos to financial wellness with BPI as their adviser and partner. We have made ourselves available to Facebook, not just to listen but also to give advice to help you reach your financial goals,” says Carmencita Gozar, BPI vice president and brand BPI division head.
By taking this route, Gozar says BPI has developed a channel that’s neither bound by time nor physical limitations, unlike traditional marketing activities.
“They are coming from different parts of the bank, giving them well-rounded experience to be able to answer anybody’s question. They are dedicated: they are at home sometimes and they answer questions,” she says.
The app and these BPI advisers behind the app aim to promulgate wise money management, responsible borrowing, growing wealth and other financial concerns. In activating the app, a user will be asked to choose a banker with whom to begin a conversation. Initiating a conversation is as easy as clicking the picture of the chosen banker. The FB user can also seek an alternative opinion from another banker or set up a branch appointment.
“These are all-around advisers. We have different bankers because sometimes I can relate better to someone my age or maybe I can relate to a woman, maybe a mother,“ says Brand BPI digital marketing head Virginia Brocka.
The bankers featured in BPI’s Bankers Online App thus have their real photo and a summary of their interests and suggested topic of conversation.
The eight bankers are:
· Eunice, described as a “gadget junkie,” is an expert on money management;
· Jagr, is a “passionate pianist and conductor” and described as a “great listener and financial adviser;”
· Brian, a bowling enthusiast, is the one to talk to for solutions for borrowing needs;
· Kenneth, described as a “smart adventurer,” can act not just as a tourist guide but an adviser on building savings;
· Bess, a photoblogger, is an adviser for Pinoys abroad;
· Patrick, a football and marketing enthusiast, is the expert on banking online;
· Sherry, a “foodie,” can talk about how to build one’s nest back home; and,
Donna, a painter, is the banker for Filipinos in Europe.
Donna is actually based in BPI’s London branch and is thus accessible in European time zone. Bess and Cherry attend to the needs of Pinoys abroad but are based here so they can talk to both the overseas Pinoys and their local beneficiaries, such as on remittance matters or how to start investments.
App users must take note, however, that BPI discourages people from posting their account numbers online for security reasons. They are asked to give contact number and BPI conducts a verification but it’s a no-no to reveal account numbers online.
Donald Patrick Lim, managing director of MRM Worldwide, which is the digital and relationship marketing arm of the global advertising giant McCann Worldgroup, says BPI’s Bankers Online app is “one of the few FB apps that talks to its customers.” It’s something to be proud of that a Filipino brand is leading the way, Lim says.
But what if the volume of engagements grows by leaps and bounds and too heavy for these eight pioneering online bankers to handle?
As these online bankers have other existing tasks, Ocampo says setting up a full-time dedicated team is an option.
“The whole bank is one in really engaging the clients in whatever channel they choose,” she says.
“I think the essence of this whole activity is being connected to you. Now it’s FB but maybe 10 years for now, it will be another,” Brocka says.
Whatever medium is there, BPI will be there, she adds.
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