Tech: With the recent launching of a mobile app for banking services, avoiding the long queues at the bank and not carrying cash in your pocket is becoming a realistic possibility.
The Bank of Bhutan (BoB) launched its mobile app, called M-BoB in May, this year.
The mobile app allows users to access banking services like fund transfers within BoB accounts, recharging your mobile phone airtime or prepaid broadband account, paying utility bills, and paying bills at a commercial enterprise like a grocery store or hotel, among others, all from a mobile phone.
Other services like checking your account balance and getting account statements, among others, are also available.
Already, at least 10,500 BoB customers have signed up to use the mobile app, with at least 6,000 of them in Thimphu alone, according to statistics maintained by the bank.
The bank’s spokesperson, Passang Norbu, said that between 25-30 percent of all BoB transactions now occur online. This percentage include ATM transactions.
Reflecting the increasing trend, internet and SMS banking increased by 31 percent in 2014, when compared to the previous year, while B-Wallet transactions increased by 72 percent, based on numbers provided by BoB.
On the implications of more transactions moving online, Passang Norbu said that both the bank and customers benefit. “With introduction of alternate delivery channel, we benefit by having a cost effective means of providing banking services and the customers benefit by having the flexibility such services available whenever and wherever required,” he said. “With the move towards alternate delivery channels, we hope to improve service delivery and coverage of banking services across the Kingdom where it isn’t cost effective to open and maintain brick-and-mortar branches.”
Asked if there could be a recurrence of problems that plagued its B-Wallet service, Passang Norbu said congestion issues will be avoided.
“M-BoB can handle up to about 250 transactions per second,” he said. “M-BoB is using the same interface as B-Wallet but we expect substantial improvement with the shift to new CBS (core banking service).”
The bank is yet to resolve the congestion issues that affected its B-Wallet service. “We have been trying to resolve the issues from sometime now but unfortunately, have been unsuccessful,” Passang Norbu said. B-Wallet is usually inaccessible or unavailable for BoB customers when promotions are offered.
“We have had a number of fixes suggested by our technical vendors that were implemented but regrettably, none of them have worked,” he said. “This has been a trial-and-error exercise as we were not able to identify the root cause of the problem. Our technical partners have now suggested another solution, the shift to new CBS, which will work.”
The shift is expected to be completed by January, next year.
While there are clear advantages to moving financial transactions online, there may also be some possible risks.
Ensuring security of transactions is one. Passang Norbu explained there are security measures in place. “M-BoB is a very secure service since no data can be stored on your mobile phones and every data is encrypted for transfers,” he said.
He added that even the security PIN codes are known only to the customer and are not visible to bank employees.
The mobile app is being upgraded to offer more options.
Passang Norbu said the bank plans on providing a Dzongkha language option and other services on the mobile app, like withdrawing cash at an ATM, increasing the bill payment list and allowing for more real time bill payments, and being able to pay merchants using “near field communications”.
However, while such services are currently free, the bank may begin charging a “minimal” fee for some services in the future.
The country’s other banks are yet to introduce mobile apps.
By Gyalsten K Dorji