Early this year WhatsApp has been acquired by Facebook for 19 bn USD - not without reason this acquisition has been well above estimated company value. Signs are good that WhatsApp will grow the current 450 million subscribers to reach 1 billion. The mobile app has been initially a mere alternative to SMS but has grown to become a blend of messenger and social media channel. Other messenger apps like WeChat (a strong contender in Asia) or Skype are also throwing their hat in the ring.
But what can private banks and wealth managers learn from WhatsApp and other messenger apps?
- Convenience. Clients are using the WhatsApp messenger as it is convenient to follow conversations, send pictures and because they immediately get notice if someone is available. Allowing clients to contact their advisor whenever she is online is a powerful tool. Wealth managers should go and fetch it.
- It’s not a teenager thing anymore. Social media channels in general enjoyed a reputation of being only for a young audience. This age barrier has vanished and more and more older users are being drawn into using apps, social media and messenger features.
- WhatsApp is planning a telephone function and will in general broaden its functionality. Besides the possibility to conveniently chat or leave messages to advisor/ client soon a telephone function will be broadly available for the app - making the application more flexible than it is already today.
- Messaging is not email. The hurdle to write an email is way higher compared to messaging, which combines the benefits of chat functions with the option to leave emails. There is no need for all flowery phrases for every message you write. Its fast, it’s fun, it’s what clients want.
- Everybody knows it. Some wealth managers provide their own contact functions via app – that’s great and important. But WhatsApp is already known by the customer. Allow clients to stay in their comfort zone without having to learn a new technology. Most likely your relationship managers use it already, too.
Wealth managers and private banks need to think about how to leverage mobile messenger technology for their own business. It can be by using existing popular messengers like WhatsApp for some communication. Another option is the integration of similar messaging features in existing banking apps. And keep in mind: these options are not mutually exclusive.