How a Turkish bank is using Apple’s Watch to engage people with ‘short, powerful’ interactions’

Turkish bank Akbank is looking to wearable technology for the future of banking, using the Apple Watch to create a new banking channel underscored by shorter, contextual interactions with people.

The app captures information about the smartwatch wearer, allowing them to manage their accounts in a myriad of ways including accessing daily statements, performing currency conversions based on location and locating the nearest branch. Importantly, the app can withdraw money from ATMs via SMS Pass or iBeacon.

Notifications on the Akbank Apple Watch app give customers a view of their daily activities and notify them if they hit pre-set spending limits. This allows the user to keep a close eye on their personal accounts and finances, and also prevent unexpected activity.

Developed in partnership with R/GA London, the app aims to accelerate Akbanks effort’s attempts to refresh the customer experience at a time when slow customer adoption of wearables continues to be a hindrance to building expansive strategies. Just 720,000 Android Watches were shipped during 2014, but some experts expect Apple Watch’s arrival in April to push the category up to 40 million units shipped in 2015.

Akbank wants its Apple Watch app to work alongside its smartphone counterpart. It sees its endeavours on smartwatches as more of an enabler and display for the apps running on people’s phones.

David Jakes, experience design director at R/GA, said the brand realised that a “smartwatch gives us an opportunity to create shorter, but more powerful interactions with people”.

“Being contextual, always on, and reachable makes it unique in many ways. Finding the right balance, so the interactions are accurate, relevant and useful is our primary focus,” he added. “At the same time, as mentioned before, smart watches make new interactions a more intimate and meaningful experience. Finding the balance between the smart watch and the smart phone is a choreography of simplicity, real value, context and utility. It is a new medium to tell a different kind of story, that can help people and brands have a stronger relationship where it makes sense.”

Despite wearable technology being in its infancy, banks from all over the world including the Royal Bank of Canada and Spain’s La Caixa have experimented with Google Glass and other applications to make processes like authentication and account management more convenient for customers. While banks are gradually coming to terms with mobile, wearables are still uncharted territory and as such banks have been happy to experiment and not commit too much when they are still yet to be widely adopted.

Akbank’s strategy reflects what early adopters of the smartwatch were quick to highlight; that the watch would be a way to take personalisation to the next level with short and sweet interactions that people could decide what was personal or not rather than having it decided for them.

Seb Joseph

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