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The Social Bank Revolution

One of the themes of my recent presentations is how technology has bridged the divide between work life and social life. This came up in force again the other week as we talked about the role of social media in finance at the Financial Services Club.

For the older generation, work was always a place you went to and, when you left, you closed the door and relaxed. There was no cross-over. Gradually, thanks to email, the telephone and now the whole world of social media, these two separated planets have collided, merged and melded. It is the reason why we have social capitalism and the ability of anyone, anywhere to change anything.

I encounter this merged world of social and work often as I see business acquaintances on Facebook sharing their newborn child, family holiday or drunken birthday parties with me. Interestingly, we now find that this social exposure is proving useful to businesses, for example in vetting prospective employees or even firing existing ones. The days when you could throw a party by telling your employer you’re taking a sickie because Grandma died have long gone, as everything today can be tracked, traced and watched today.

But what does it mean from the other side? If we all know that social is now part of business, what role does business play in being social? Some people believe it has no role, but those people are the ones who will kill their companies as everything is about socializing commerce today. That is the basis upon which new banks, like Moven, are moving into banking, using social media analysis to analyse and give more depth of knowledge about your trustworthiness using CRED. It is also why we talk about social capitalism, and social commerce is part of social capitalism.

Shared Experience

What is social commerce? It’s the ability to use social interaction as part of a value exchange. That might be exchanging other things than money by the way, such as exchanging time as part of a community currency capability or exchanging knowledge. However, the core of social commerce is still the use of trade – buying and selling – but now embedded in a shared experience with friends and family online.

Amazon and Apple do this well, with entertainment being a core part of social commerce, although entertainment has always been part of social commerce as it is a social activity. Other examples are creeping through, with more and more retailing offering a social connection. Sharing the latest shoes or clothes you’ve purchased via Facebook is a simple example, and sharing holidays booked, work trips and almost any other form of goods and services purchased is becoming a social norm too.

Sharing that you are a good saver or heavy spender is the bank part of social commerce, although more intelligent forms of financial analysis are coming through, such as how you compare as a spender or saver with your social network. So, this then begs the question: if you have social media, social commerce and social capitalism, shouldn’t we really have social banks? And the answer is: of course we should!

There are some, with the Facebook banks of Turkey and India being case studies in point, that were recently discussed on my blog: India’s CICI Bank and DenizBank and Akbank, Turkey. But these banks are the exception and not the norm.

And then I bumped into another exception at our recent Financial Services Club meeting in Warsaw. This bank is mBank, a bank that has embedded Facebook and social commerce into its blood. For example, as part of mBank, you can make a payment to any Facebook friend from within the bank’s Facebook app. You just tap on your friend’s profile and send a status update: “send $5 to Fred”, and it’s done.

But what really got me about mBank is that it has been spawned by a traditional bank: BRE Bank. BRE Bank was founded in 1986 in Poland and has been a stable part of the bank community backdrop for almost thirty years. So when the bank moved from branch-based banking to remote banking to internet banking to personal financial management, they kept the BRE Bank brand. Through all of these evolutions, the bank was still the stalwart traditional bank.

Now however, in recognition of the social commerce revolution that needs social banks, BRE Bank has decided to disappear. Yes, you heard me, BRE Bank’s brand is being dropped and the bank will be renamed and rebranded mBank later this year. What began as an experiment with mobile banking a decade ago has now become the bank.

Now that’s what I call a banking revolution as it makes me wonder whether Lloyds, RBS, HSBC, Barclays and Santander will evolve into 21st banking brands with names like Live, Shout, Talk, Listen, Smile. Oh, we already have a bank called Smile? OK, then how about Soon? Oh, that’s AXA’s rebrand.

Well, there you go. It must be the 21st century.

Mr. Skinner is chairman of the Financial Services Club, CEO of Balatro Ltd. and comments on the financial markets through his blog the Finanser. He can be reached at [email protected].