SmartBanking: Bank Austria launches multi-million investment programme with a view to expanding its range of services

  • Changes in customer behaviour call for innovative banking
  • Bank Austria will make multi-million investments over the medium term to expand its customer service facilities. Investment activities will focus on:
    o Smart Banking as a new customer service model by blending virtual and classic branches, and personal customer services via videotelephony, e-mail, telephone and SMS
    o State-of-the-art technology: cash recyclers for deposits, disbursements and transfers in all branches, multi-media terminals, apps, tablets, SignPads
    o New modern branch formats: advisory service centres of a new calibre will complement classic branches and self-service branches – kick-off with three pilot offices in 2014
    o Development and building of about 20 new advisory service centres with a much more extensive offering for all customer groups
    o An extension of service hours is planned for the virtual branch: Mondays to Fridays from 8.00 a.m. to 10.00 p.m., and Saturdays from 10.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m.
    o The new service model will be accompanied by an increase in customer service capacity
  • Customer and employee forum: intensive involvement of customers and employees in the transition process to ascertain needs and for quality assurance

Bank Austria is launching an investment programme, and is thereby responding in a forward-looking manner to changes in customer behaviour which are having a significant impact on banking business. The number of customers using advisory services in the bank's branches has been falling in recent years because routine banking transactions are settled via OnlineBanking or MobileBanking, or in the branches' self-service zones. Today, 80 per cent of all customers have Internet, 36 per cent use a smartphone and 40 per cent use OnlineBanking – and the numbers are growing.

Helmut Bernkopf, Bank Austria's Management Board member with responsibility for private individuals and corporate customers, says: "We are launching an investment programme with a view to significantly expanding our customer services. For this purpose we are investing a multi-million euro amount over the medium term to implement our new Smart Banking business model. The model will involve a blending of virtual and stationary branches, and customers will decide how, when and where they contacts us and avails themselves of our advisory services. To this end, we will invest in state-of-the-art technology such as multi-media terminals and cash recyclers in all branches. In addition, about 20 branches will be converted into advisory service centres offering a broad range of services for all customer groups. We plan to significantly extend advisory service hours in the virtual branch: Mondays to Fridays from 8.00 a.m. to 10.00 p.m. and Saturdays from 10.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. In an initial step, it will be open for business from 8.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m. on weekdays beginning in the autumn. The branch network will be streamlined. As we are today serving 90 per cent of our customers in 75 per cent of our 270 retail branches, we will focus on these branches and upgrade them. One half of the remaining 25 per cent will be converted into modern self-service branches, while the other half will be combined with existing branches. Our strategy here is to blend virtual and classic branches. The most important consideration is that with these investments we are increasing advisory service capacity for our customers, which will serve as a basis for more efficient advisory services."

Key points of the investment programme
A multi-million investment will be made over the medium term to expand customer services. Smart Banking will lead to a blend of virtual and classic branches, and personal customer services will be offered via videotelephony, e-mail, telephone and SMS. The customer decides when, where and how he will contact Bank Austria. The Internet, MobileBanking with innovative apps, videotelephony as part of SmartBanking, classic branches, advisory service centres of a new calibre and modern self-service branches will all be combined into a new service model.

Cash recyclers for deposits, disbursements and transfers will be installed at every office, permitting customers to settle routing banking business around the clock, seven days a week. Multi-media terminals, tablets and SignPads offer enhanced advisory services, and more specialists and advisory teams will be assigned to branches so as to more effectively meet customer needs.

Start of the new branch formats with three pilot offices
There will be new, modern branch formats: the first three pilot formats for advisory service centres, branches and self-service branches will be launched in 2014. The new advisory service centres – about 20 are planned for Austria, one in each of the federal provinces and 12 to 15 in Vienna – will offer a comprehensive range of banking services for all customer groups in cities, i.e. private individuals, corporate customers and Private Banking clients. The classic branch will also be re-launched to make advisory services the focus of its activities. These offices will be complemented by self-service branches; as highly efficient banking offices, these will meet basic financial needs.

In combination with the virtual branch and the planned extension of service hours there – Mondays to Fridays 8.00 a.m. to 10.00 p.m., and Saturdays from 10.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. (kick-off in the autumn, with advisory services offered weekdays from 8.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m.), the more efficient service model will increase customer service capacity despite a streamlining of the branch network. The findings of an in-depth market analysis showed that three-quarters of the 270 retail branches are in a good location, that they are in the right place, and that they have potential. 90 per cent of all Bank Austria customers are served in these branches today. 25 per cent of the bank's branches need to be adapted, about one half of these branches will be integrated in larger offices, while the other half will be converted into self-service branches.

Involvement of customers and employees
Customers and employees are involved via the platforms www.kundenforum.at and www.mitarbeiterforum.at, whereby they can accompany the transition process to the "Bank for the Future". 3,200 customers and about 3,000 employees participate in the forums, more than 10,000 questionnaires were completed and a stimulating exchange of ideas is under way via postings and discussions. The forums offer an opportunity for discussion, expert-run blogs and questionnaires with real time results, thereby perfectly complementing classic market research.

Helmut Bernkopf adds, "With this new approach we are well positioned for creating the "Bank for the Future". This investment programme gives us the assurance that we can offer customers top quality with our new service model. Intensive market research and the involvement of our customers and employees underline that we are on the right track with our plans. But the path we are pursuing is also open on many sides and we reserve the right to be flexible so as to adjust our subsequent steps whenever necessary to meet customer needs."

Enquiries: Bank Austria Media Relations Austria
Matthias Raftl, tel. +43 (0) 50505 52809
e-mail: matthias.raftl@unicreditgroup.at