I don’t like banking halls there’s something about them that makes me feel uneasy. Maybe it’s the recycled air or the fact that there are so many people wearing ties that I, myself start to feel suffocation in sympathy. As soon as I got my first ATM card, I started to hack my life around staying as far from a banking hall as possible. And thankfully, with Internet banking and the advent of mobile banking apps today, around 80-90% of my banking is done from outside a banking hall.
A couple of years ago, in bid to not “put all my eggs in one basket” (at that point, I’d pretty much closed all the other accounts I had and focused on the first one to give me an ATM card), I opened an account with Stanbic IBTC—I had heard some good things about them, so I thought to give them a shot. I requested Internet banking after the account opening formalities were done and within a few days, I got it, logged in…the end. Lol.
Almost, as it’s almost two years since that account saw any real action.
The Internet banking interface was very cumbersome. It felt like trying to do banking on an Excel sheet.
A couple of weeks ago, someone mentioned that the Internet banking feature had been revamped, so I decided to check it out again, to see if it could get any use out of me.
Login Page and Access
To get onto the platform now, you need to get through the login page first, which is clean and straightforward. The design features a white login form, against an opaque blue and brown background, which helps you focus on the task at hand. There are no ads and no distractions; instead everything about it says “business”, which is as it should really be.
Because it had been ages since I last logged in, I had forgotten my password and had to request for a new one which I got after answering an endless string of questions over the phone. There is a chance this could have been quicker if I had paid a visit to the bank. As stated earlier, I don’t like banking halls, so I was happy to get it done over the phone and get a password sent to me via SMS. It was valid for 2 hours—enough time for me to login and change it to something of my choice.
Stanbic’s password requirements are stringent—as are their security practices as seen above (rigorous verifications before resetting the password, time-bound/2-hour password, e.t.c)—so there’s a long string of requirements that need to be met before your password is ‘ready-to-use’, including: a character length requirement, a special requirement, and a numeral and a letter in caps requirement. Not bad, however this is where I discovered the first bug in the web app. It requires at least one special character as part of your password, but if you add a second, the app processes your entry as not meeting the special character requirement. Another security feature here is that you get locked out of the platform after three wrong password attempts.
When you eventually get past that page, you are directed to another page where you’re required to enter a One Time Password (OTP), which is sent to your phone as a text. This happens every time you attempt to login to the Internet banking platform. In my experience, the OTP text came in promptly and while I usually prefer a physical token, I didn’t feel like I needed one in this case. Rightly entering the OTP, finally gets you onto the platform proper.
This is the first page you see when you get redirected from the OTP page – the dashboard. It is the simplest of pages really. You’ll find a summary of your account balance and activity in a card on the left, and that’s it. There’s a quick menu which gives you access to what the developers (or the bank) considers as the functions you’re most likely to reach for, which are: Payment and Transfers (which is self-explanatory), Buy (which basically lets you buy airtime) and Redeem (which deals with redeeming Western Union transfers).
On the top left, there is the top menu, which has a few more options including: receipts (your transaction details), recipients (where you can settle bills and add recipients you want to send money to), service requests (where you can stop cheques, request a new cheque books – people still use those?) and modify your type of account. You will also find your profile where you can change your password.
Overall Design and Functionality
Overall, the design is clean and uncluttered, a welcome departure from the marketplace approach most other banks employ. Both visually and functionally, the design works. It’s a joy to use and probably the nicest one I have used so far. The use of translucence, while seemingly iOS inspired, does work better on the banking platform, than it does on iOS in my opinion and on the whole, the app is fast and responsive.
Most of the design elements crossover from desktop to mobile quite well, so well that I haven’t bothered to check whether there is a new mobile app to go with the new web app.
That said, beyond the looks, I do have a few issues to pick with the design, especially with regards to consistency. First, the general approach seems to be to offer as little as possible at all times, and offer more as you dig deeper. This approach might help with achieving the clean look and not overwhelming the user, but it also makes the platform come across as hollow and sparse with regards to features. With attention spans racing to zero these days, I would personally prefer to have a fair idea of my options as soon as I login.
Also, there is the issue of duplication, which happens across the platform, and stifles the “flow” within it. For instance some of the items on the “quick menu” on top are also duplicated in the slide out menu on the left, and in some cases, drilling down on the account in question also leads to the same menu items.
Seeing as the “quick menu” doesn’t adapt to every users’ habits, the duplications are unnecessary and make the whole experience more unintuitive than it should be. The labelling doesn’t help either, for instance “Redeem” doesn’t reflect what it actually does, and there is no way to tell without clicking on it, you can say same for “Receipts” and “Buy” (notice that I had explain what each one did at the beginning? If they were self explanatory, that wouldn’t have been necessary.
Stanbic IBTC’s new Internet banking platform is a welcome departure from the old one. The differences between both are night and day, one made me pretty much abandon the account it came with, while the other is making me reconsider what account to use as my default.
The interface is clean, uncluttered and devoid of ads and distractions, it feels like a breath of fresh air after a ride in the backseat of a danfo across the length of the third mainland bridge during rush hour, sandwiched between two obese people.
It’s not perfect and does have its kinks, but it looks and works pretty well, and sometimes, that’s all that is important.
If you have got a Stanbic IBTC account, and you have used the new Internet banking portal, please let me know what your own experience has been like in the comments below.