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Vazha Beriashvili: 30 Percent of Our Deposits are Open Through Internet Bank

TBC Bank is one of the most outstanding among Georgian banks in terms of remote banking services. Recent surveys conducted on different internet portals prove that customers believe TBC Bank’s internet and mobile bank is the best.

I would add that TBC Bank is the first Georgian bank to be awarded two global prizes  from the world’s influential magazine Global Finance in 2013 – a prize for the Best Integrated Webpage in the World and a prize for the Best Payment System in the World. TBC Bank’s Internet bank has received 18 awards in different nominations since 2012.

How does TBC Bank manage to be a world leader in terms of distance service development and, more precisely, what are the advantages of its internet and mobile banks compared to it competitors? We spoke about these topics with the deputy director of Retail and SME business,Vazha Beriashvili.

How would you characterize competition in the market in terms of distance service development and what advantage do you have over your competitors?

– TBC Bankhas internet bank and mobile bank that are indeed outstanding in the Georgian market. In the first place, our advantage is that we try to make our services simple and convenient for the customers. Today, customer does not need to use username, password and other details in order to login in internet bank or mobile bank. They should be able to make a banking transaction via internet or mobile bank in several seconds. That means we are constantly focused on simplicity.

Certainly, the second advantage is that our products are tailored to meet our customers’ needs. In mobile banking, for example, a customer can set up the transaction information, which simplifies transferring money to family members or close acquaintances. In addition, a customer can review their financial turnover from the previous month and get an idea about their budget so they can compare spending to that of previous months, plan future budgets, and simplify the management of their funds.

In fact, in terms of distance services, TBC Bank is now at the stage that it is really competing against foreign leading banks. You are probably aware that TBC Bank is the only Georgian bank that has received an award for the Best Internet Bank in the World.

 As I understand, the award is based on more than just simplicity – other factors, such as design concept and security are also considered, correct?  

 – During the last several years, TBC’s number one priority in distance services is mobile banking.The first thing we do when we introduce a new service is we conduct a thorough analysis on how this service will work in mobile banking and, only after that, in internet bank. Simplicity is a part of this strategy. However, our goal is not to create innovation just for the sake of innovation. Our objective is to have satisfied customers who find TBC Bank’s internet bank and mobile bank comfortable, convenient, and simple. As for security, creation of security guarantees is as fundamental as the A-B-Cs for a bank like TBC. The security of our applications and software is tested by foreign companies, special tests are conducted and, of course, the customer has is completely guaranteed of its security.

By the way, when foreign specialists evaluate distance management systems, they look at the number of customers and the growth dynamics first. The pace of introducing innovations, security and simplicity also plays an important role. In addition, they consider ratings on the Apple store and Google Play. Any customer can check these ratings. We are proud that TBC’s rating is constantly five stars. We are very attentive to this. It is notable that even foreign banks find it hard to maintain five stars. In Georgia, we are used to the fact that we do not hold leading positions in all the major fields. However, we can proudly say that we are among the best in the world in terms of distance service development and we often hold an even better position than banks in advanced countries.

– As you noted, the development of mobile banking is a top  priority for the bank. Why has the bank chosen this strategy?

– The strategy of developing mobile banking is determined by the modern lifestyle. It is nearly impossible to imagine a person in the 21st century person – and especially the new generation – without mobile phones. If we do not develop services that are tailored at them, we will clearly lose them as customers. On the other hand, mobile banking is a very comfortable product in the era of traffic jams. Going to a bank for a simple transaction means wasting a lot of time; if you have a mobile phone at hand, why not use the mobile bank service? In addition to the new generation, these services are also actively used by the older generation – 1/3 of our customers are people above 45 years of age, so these products are not just suitable for young people. After some period of time, as the internet penetration increases, every generation will use distance management channels.

– What is the growth dynamics of your customers? What has caused this growth? How many customers do you have now?

– Two years ago we had approximately 15 000 customers. That number grew to 60 000 in one year, then it reached 100 000. Now we have 200 000 customers. Such growth in the number of customers is not just about having a good, sought-after product; we also put a great effort in educating customers how to use it. When a customer comes to the branch, we do not simply give them the password for internet bank – we explain and show them how it works. We answer their questions. Currently, TBC Bank has a very small number of such customers who have access to the internet but do not use internet banking. As for mobile banking, this service is also growing. Currently we have 85 000 customers. However, the growth dynamics is very high. The number of mobile banking users grows by 100 or 150 percent every year. I think this trend will continue in the future.

How did the development of distance channels impact the queues in the branches? Did this cut back on the work load in the branches?

–Certainly the active usage of distance services had an impact on the branches.  The branches will gradually (and this process has begun) transform from places for banking transactions to consultation centers; customers can already make utility payments, receive loans or open deposits through distance channels. Consequently, the number of customers does not grow at its previous rate. Certainly, this has eased pressure on the branches. The distance channels have very high growth dynamics. It is notable that 30% of our deposits are open through internet banking since the process is easy and comfortable and does not require much time.

– You constantly add new functions, what is the frequency and what process does the product go through before reaching the customer?

– It has been several years that we have been developing non-stop–we are constantly renewing our distance channels. I can promise our customers that there will always be novelties. We renew the functional 5-6 times a year and we do not plan on slowing down. We will continue adding new functions in to both mobile and internet banking.

As for the processes that the product undergoes from its creation to launching, first we get the ideas from our customers. We process the information we receive from them and, at the same time, use international practice, observe customer behavior and demands.  I would like to note that the customers are actively involved in this process. Before the programmers start coding, we work on the outline, test the features of the function in the mobile and test it with our clients. After that, automated testing is carried out in order to avoid potential flaws.

When a new product is introduced, all the features might not be launched at the very beginning, a minor drawback might turn up. What is important is to improve any problems as quickly as possible. With our strategy, we easily give up a product that is not useful. Guided by this principle, we have even terminated products that were deemed unnecessary.

– Which product is the most popular?

 – Most often, account balances are checked or a mobile top up is made through mobile banking. The transfer of money to family members is also popular. More experienced customers also try to analyze their finances.

– How do you see the dynamics of distance management in five years?

– In five years, I cannot imagine a 40-45 year old person living in a city who does not use these remote banking services. I think that these services will develop and their usage will increase in Georgia, just as they are now developing in Scandinavian countries.