Banks and stock broking firms are beginning to carry out business on Facebook, an important step as they try to build deeper customer relationships through social media platforms. With nearly 45 million users in India and growing rapidly, Facebook’s popularity is making banks test the waters with a few basic services to discover how comfortable customers are carrying out transactions on the social networking site.
ICICI Bank, India’s largest private bank, is one of the early m
overs. Its application lets customers check the balance in accounts; request statements and cheque books; or even upgrade debit cards right from their Facebook home page. “Social media is not a fringe channel and has become an important tool to interact with consumers,” said Sujit Ganguly, a general manager at the bank.
“We will continue to focus our energies on social media to ensure that we can take full advantage of the interactivity of this medium,” he added. Banks and financial services companies are only just putting to use the interactive potential of a platform such as Facebook. So far, their presence has been largely static, restricted to advertising and providing information about products and services. Users, too, are bound to have security and privacy concerns, but experts are of the view that security fears have been addressed.
“Those checks are in place,” said Ashish Raina, principal research analyst at technology advisory Gartner. “The banking community is careful. Having said that, hackers are always building new ways to hack.” HDFC Securities wants to integrate a stock-trading portal on Facebook with widgets that give real-time information feed. It has asked capital market regulator Sebi for permission to launch such a service. “We are taking the ‘information leading to transaction’ approach,” said Jyoteesh Kumar, head of online business at HDFC Securities.
Broking agencies have to comply with strict guidelines when it comes to trying anything on digital media. Every advertisement published by a company must be approved by the exchanges, and the companies should keep a tab on their employees and brokers to monitor their communication online. Broking agencies also cannot put out any news not known to the media without seeking prior approval.
Axis Bank is promoting its platinum credit cards on Facebook by integrating a movie ticket-booking transaction engine. This was part of a larger effort to offer services that would help attract more attention to the official Axis Bank Facebook page that was launched around the same time. “Allowing transactions was a leap of faith we took while observing trends on the medium, and was strategically correct for Axis Bank,” said Manisha Lath Gupta, chief marketing officer of the bank.
Some others are just now experimenting with social media and toying with the idea of doing something more than just being present on it. Financial services company Edelweiss, which does some branding with games, plans to introduce more such initiatives on Facebook. Risks notwithstanding, social media, including Facebook, will be an important platform for those looking to build better relationships with consumers. “The momentum will be fast and huge,” Gartner’s Raina said.