Banking has come a long way since the stamped passbook. Social media has come a long way since the simple status update. Can the two intersect?

Social media is transforming banking relationships almost as quickly as it has changed our interpersonal communications. With the rise of interfaces such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as well as fintech start-ups such as Tyro and Coinjar, financial outlets can use social media for everything from improving customer service to allowing users to send money to others via online platforms. Emerging fintech companies like Movenbank are using social media data to help people get access to credit or even simply open a bank account.

With integration happening so quickly, could social media platforms become the banks of the future? The Chief Security Advisor at Sydney fintech firm Tilikum Investments, Stephen Wilson, acknowledges the rise of payments from inside an app or the transfer of money between social media accounts as a sort of “blending of social accounts and conventional bank accounts”. But while he believes social media is “hugely important” for engagement, he isn’t sure whether this blending constitutes “banking” as we traditionally understand it.
Social media is a subset of the whole digital experience
“It depends on what we mean by platform,” says Wilson, “To banking people, ‘banking platform’ means back office and infrastructure. If we take ‘platform’ to mean the customer experience of how they ‘get to the bank’ then yes, social media will be an option, alongside dedicated banking apps, thin-client browser access and branches.

“We need to think in terms of layers of customer experience in different contexts that join customers to different core banking functions – payments, funds transfer, account creation, loan applications, financial advice, insurance, super and other financial products.  And social media is a subset of the whole digital experience.” 
I’m highly sceptical about whether anyone will actually want to use any social media platform as their payment technology of choice

Looking ahead

The editor-in-chief of online comparison site,, Angus Kidman, says social media is “definitely” going to be a key channel for banks to promote themselves, but he’s doubtful about its future as a payment mechanism.
“I’m highly sceptical about whether anyone will actually want to use any social media platform as their payment technology of choice,” he says.

Rescue or risk?

Wilson is across risk management. “What matters is that the institution can be sure of who you – the customer – really are when you’re online reaching out to request a service,” he says. “We have great authentication mechanisms now that maintain your connection and context and relationships through continuous authentication, “step up” authentication, biometrics, ambient signals like location and history for risk management and fraud detection.” 

Paradoxically, social banking can be a safer way for banks to transact with customers, Wilson says. “A bank can now get a much richer view of the customer, their exact state at a point in time, where they are, what they’ve been doing that day, what sort of transaction they trying to do,” he says. “Does it make sense, for example, that a customer is exercising a line of credit right now to buy a car or book a holiday? Social media delivers an amazing variety of signals to help us better know the customer and better pick out signs of trouble.”

And just before you start imagining all the “Big Brother” implications, Kidman says it’s important not to exaggerate the privacy risks associated with social banking. “Financial institutions already know a lot about your shopping habits through non-mobile payments,” he says. “If you don't want your spending tracked, you’ve just got to use cash.”
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