On-boarded with a selfie: NZ challenger unveils ‘virtual’ branch

New Zealand’s TSB Bank has launched a new “virtual” banking portal, giving a digital make-over to some of the last vestiges of its in-branch-only experience.

The new online portal has, first and foremost, streamlined the account opening process. Prospective customers will, according to TSB, be able to open an account “in minutes”, taking advantage of the bank’s new digital on-boarding and eKYC facial recognition technology that can confirm identity through a “short video selfie”.

Through the digital branch, existing customers will also be able to book in times and engage in live tele-meetings with TSB’s ‘mobile mortgage managers’.

“[TSB’s] Virtual Bank was born from that desire for more convenience, because it means people all over New Zealand, regardless of if they have a TSB branch nearby, can click a button at any time of day, to book a video call appointment with one of our friendly team,” said TSB’s general manager marketing and customer experience, Justine St John.

Covid-19 lockdowns, unsurprisingly, appear to have been the key catalyst for TSB fast-tracking its virtual banking rollout, with New Zealand only recently easing back from government-mandated lockdown restrictions that effectively shuttered all non-essential businesses between March and April.

Since mid-May, the New Zealand Government – which enforced some of the strictest quarantine conditions in the world – has eased the country back to Level 2 restrictions, removing most lockdown controls whilst maintaining physical distancing requirements. Since the easing, most bank branches across the country, including those of the Australian big four-owned banks, have reopened.

St John acknowledged that despite the slew of existing mobile banking facilities TSB has on offer, “there are always going to be some financial conversations where you want a more personal interaction with your banker”.

“What Covid-19 proved was that you can still get that personal, human touch via a video call, but connecting this way is more convenient. For example, it removes travel time to get to a meeting, conversations tend to be speedier, and all of that gives you more flexibility in your daily schedule,” St John said.

TSB, which according to a 2019 Roy Morgan survey has among the highest customer satisfaction ratings among New Zealand banks, has been actively engaging with its customers through the Covid lockdowns, “checking in” with those that had missed mortgage or credit card payments, as well as customers over the age of 70 known to rely on physical bank branches to do their banking.

“We’ve had a really great response to this with many people grateful we’ve reached out and helped them get a better understanding of their options,” said TSB chief executive Donna Cooper.

New Zealanders are able to access TSB’s Virtual Bank at www.tsb.co.nz/virtual-bank.