In the last 12 months, a fast growing number of retail banks released an iPhone and/or an iPad application, some more sophisticated than the others. A few financial institutions tried to cleverly leverage social media to promote their mobile apps, such as:
* Contest: Singapore's Standard Chartered with the 'the World's Coolest Intern' contest,
* Facebook: France's Credit Agricole which added a dedicated iPhone tab to their facebook page to collect user feedback and ideas to improve their app,
* Crowdsourcing: France's Societe Generale which urged their clients to come up with the 9th fonctionality of their iPhone app, "secure email".
I love all those initiatives which demonstrate that banks are keen to involve their clients more and recognize the tremendous value of product co-creation. Social media is unarguably the best way to engage in a transparent and cost effective way.
But couldn't banks be more innovative and even better leverage the power of the crowd?
Italy's Webank is giving it a good try. In late January 2011, they launched the Wepad project. This is genuinely the next generation of crowdsourcing initiative in banking.
The bank recognizes that innovation doesn't necesserally come from within the bank, they demonstrate their willingness to be transparent with a good use of social media (twitter, facebook, and especially videos... I love videos!), and they urge italian people to participate... Brilliant.
I remember meeting with Webank's Vittoria La Porta, PR & Brand Reputation Manager at the excellent Online Financial Services event by EFMA (Athens, Nov 2008). At the time, Webank's social media activity was very limited. In the last couple of years, they became the most engaging bank online in Italy with a facebook page, a twitter account, as well as initiatives such as online dal 1999.
The WePad Project: 6 Weeks, 6 Experts, 1 Application
A web-reality and a race against time. A social network and an experiment in collective creativity. A team of experts working in an impossible mission: to invent the App iPad more useful than ever, that saves time and money. To find the "right idea to have only six matches and they need your help.
The WePad Team
Webank invited 6 digital, mobile, creative, experts to help them create the best, most intuitive, iPad application for banking. Please note that none of those experts works for the bank.
The 6 official contributors are:
* Gigi Beltrame, Editor in Chief at BusinessCommunity.it
* Emma Tracanella, Editor and Web Admin at Girl Geek Life
* Stefano Andreani, CEO at Opentech ENG
* Filippo Magri, Contadino at MAGRITURISMO
* Roberto Venturini, Internet Consultant at Venturini.biz
* Mafe de Baggis, Freelance
Webank record a weekly brainstorming session during which the experts share their progress and discuss the new ideas they or the online crowd came up with.
The 1st brainstorming session with the experts took place on 2nd February 2011.
I like the fact that the weekly Top 5 most commented topics / features submitted by the community are clearly listed on the WePad website. The ones for this 1st session were:
* App for all accounts
* Tag my reality
* Not only wishes
* App for taking notes
Well done to all the contributors: Gianluca Seta, Giorgia Calandriello, Gianpiero Riva, Silvia Franci, Marco Manzoni.
The 7th Team Member: You!
I love that Webank involved on this project not only experts from outside the banking industry, but they also demonstrate they are keen to listen to the Italian people to build this iPad application which, after all, will be used by them.
We all know that the more engaged in product co-creation your market, the more successful your new products.
As usual, to drive the volume of contribution the bank has to convince web users of the value of taking part and find the most appealing way to REWARD the contributors for their input. Here, Webank decided to give away one iPad to the best contributor.
Promotion: Homepage & Social Media Assets
You are proud to be on facebook or twitter, to have an executive blog, or an online community?
I can't stress enough how important it is to promote your social media presence and your activity. SEO benefits and (very) long tail aside, you can produce the best content and the most insightful posts on your social media assets, but what if very few people know about it?
Webank does a good job promoting the Wepad project on:
* their public website (dedicated tile on their homepage),
* their facebook page (dedicated tab which redirects to the microsite, and wall posts on mobile banking and iPhone / iPad),
* their twitter account (the call to action could be improved, but most of their tweets in February are referring to this initiative).
Well done to the team owning this initiative at Webank. This is one of the far too rare explorations in the field of crowdsourcing in banking, it is a great initiative which pushes the bundaries in a broadly conservative industry. Unarguably, Webank reaffirms its commitment to be the most innovative and engaging bank in Italy.
Such an approach is an excellent way to build a community of passionate, vocal, and influential italians who would surely be happy to contribute to any future similar initiatives. Here, Webank has a unique opportunity to build an engaged community of enthusiasts.
As usual, the challenge is to make sure the contributors are representative of their target segment and are rewarded for their contribution. I'd love to find out:
* how many of those contributors are already banking with Webank,
* how influential those contributors are,
* if this initiative could impact the propensity of non-customers to switch to Webank...
Contrary to other innovative initiatives such as ASB Bank's Virtual Branch on facebook (the New-Zealand bank experienced a tremendous online coverage last year), I haven't noticed yet either a sizable blog or press coverage online yet, or a high number of enthusiastic conversations on twitter. I'm not sure how structured Webank is in terms of Reputation Management. I would recommend they find some inspiration from companies like MasterCard (I invite you to watch my interview with my friend Jim Issokson, VP Reputation Management at MC Worldwide whose responsibilities include identifying and building relationships with their influencers - journalists and bloggers). This is one efficient way to spread the news and accelerate Word Of Mouth.
I'm also curious to see what will materialize from this initiative, and how quickly the bank will release its ground breaking iPad application. With so many iPad applications dedicated to banking already available worldwide, I wonder how much better this one will be (could be?) in terms of design and functionalities.
This excellent initiative would have been totally awesome if launched 6-12 months ago, don't you think?
Related articles on Visible-Banking.com
* Twitter Activities covered on Visible Banking
* Facebook Activities covered on Visible Banking
* 2010's Top 10 Most Liked Financial Institutions on Facebook
* 2010's Top 10 Most Followed Financial Institutions on Twitter
* Visible Banking Directory: Social Media in Financial Services
* Visible Banking Social Media Watch Series (Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, YouTube)