Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Bank sees net effect of its new online service

Popular: Glynis has been amazed by the bank’s iPhone App success, with thousands of new customers signing up for the service

Ulster Bank’s Glynis Hobson explains how its Anytime service is attracting 50,000 customers.

How long has Ulster Bank Anytime been in existence?

Ulster Bank launched its internet banking service 10 years ago and we were the first bank in Northern Ireland to do so.

Since then the service has changed a lot and our customers have taken hold of it.

One in five now go online to do their banking and it's growing every week.

Our customer research tells us that they really like it and find it easy to use.

Do you have any plans to further develop the offering?

Absolutely. Anytime is a service that is always improving as we respond to the needs of our customers.

One of our latest additions is a free tool which customers can use to help plan their savings.

The customer sets up an online savings goal and they can track their progress when they log in.

Thousands of customers have set themselves some interesting savings goals.

What numbers of customers are using Anytime now and how has usage changed in the past few years?

Over 50,000 new customers have signed up so far this year and the numbers are rising weekly.

Customers have told us the service is easy to register to and are happy with their online experience.

Since we launched the Ulster Bank iPhone App in December, we've been blown away by how popular it has been. Over 10,000 customers have downloaded it.

What are your projections for growth in internet and mobile banking over the next five years?

Over the next five years, we'll see customers of all ages go online more regularly to do more and more things.

Mobiles are going to continue to be a phenomenon and, as they get more sophisticated, people will expect to be able to do on their phones all that they can do online. Our challenge will be to keep up with the pace of change.

Does the growth of internet, telephone and mobile banking mean that Ulster Bank is placing less emphasis on its branch network?

Banking is about relationships and we use all our banking channels to allow our customers to establish the relationships that suit them and their needs best.

Anytime is not a replacement for our branches.

It's there to support the branches and to give our customers the choice so they can do their banking at a time and place that suits them.

What are the advantages for the bank of encouraging customers to make use of internet, telephone and mobile banking?

We want to put customers in the driving seat regarding their finances.

For example, about 18 months ago customers told us they would prefer to get their statements online, rather than in the post.

So far over 150,000 of our Anytime customers have chosen this. From the bank's viewpoint this is a win-win situation. Customers get what they want, it’s more cost effective and it's better for the environment.

Internet security is a big issue — what are you doing to increase protection for online banking customers?

Customers tell us that online security is their top priority and it is for us too.

We're constantly upgrading our systems to protect them. We're the only bank in Ireland to offer free software called Trusteer Rapport. The software works with the customer’s existing antivirus and firewall software, dramatically reducing the chance of a customer being successfully targeted by fraudsters. Thousands of customers have taken advantage of this and reduced the chances of being targeted by online fraud.

The banking sector has come in for much criticism in the past few years — what is your reaction and how do you think the banking sector can improve?

For me, the important thing is to restore customer confidence in our industry. I believe that by showing our customers that they matter to us, listening to them and working with them, we can achieve this.

In my area of business, an opportunity to do this is to respond to the customer feedback that shows they want regular text messages to let them know when their balance is getting low; it's my job to make that happen.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been offered?

The best advice I've had comes from my mum who always says: “We're here for a good time, not for a long time!”

That advice always makes me seize the moment and see the best in situations. It makes me focus on getting on and enjoying life whatever it throws at me.

What do you enjoy outside of work?

I'm a bit of an outdoors person. I enjoy horse-riding at the weekend and walking my two King Charles spaniels. I'm hoping to learn to surf this summer.