Financial Services Through Chat

Out of nowhere, Whatsapp launched payment features in Brazil. Users in Brazil now can send money through chat by linking-in their bank accounts in Whatsapp. The app currently supporting both debit and credit cards of 2 major banks and 1 neobanks : Banco de Brazil, Sicredi and NuBank. They also partnering with Cielo, largest payment operator in Brazil.

Indonesia is on the pipeline. Earlier this month, Facebook alongside Paypal put money in Gopay, solidifying their intent to enter financial services. Gopay wallet might be able to be synced to Whatsapp numbers sometimes soon. In fact, money transfer feature in Gopay already designed like a chat.

Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash. Illustration of chat app.

In my opinion, Whatsapp or chat in general could be a better and more inclusive vehicle to deliver digital financial services. Especially for unbanked population, which are half of the country.

In this article, ill write about the downside of app, opportunity of chat, learnings from other markets and potential use cases. Lets start!

Fintech startup are flourishing. Peer to peer lending grew exponentially. Electronic wallet became the driver of cashless transactions. On the other hand, bank also goes hard on digital. BTPN launched Jenius, gain popularity amongst urban professional and set high bar for mobile banking experience. Other banks like Permata and DBS follow through by creating their own digital banking. Incumbents also start making their moves. Biggest bank in Indonesia, BRI, has been campaigning aggressively on their new mobile app, BRIMO.

Both Fintech and Digital Banking trends are driven by apps. Delivering “digital” financial services is synonymous with creating app with shiny UI.

So whats the problem ?

Problems with App

Not everyone has ample internet quota. Due to its design, features and security functions, financial services app size is not small. Heres comparison of several banking apps.

Comparison of several mobile banking apps

If youre offering services for young urban professional like Jenius, this might not be an issue. However financial services growth pools are in the unbanked population. Mostly in rural, outside Java. Mobile internet quality is not as good as in Jakarta or other big cities. They might probably subscribed to cheaper data packages hence downloading becomes a big deal, in terms of speed (takes long time to download) and cost ( will decrease quota).

Installing an app is a friction which might stops users from consuming the services.

Opportunities with Chat

Chat, specifically Whatsapp, is the most widely used application in Indonesia. For most Indonesians, its their first experience using mobile app, the thing that makes them switch from feature phone to smartphone and the numero uno reason for using the internet. So the first advantage of delivering services through chat is meeting the users where they are. Less friction for the users hence bigger chance of adoptions.

Messaging app in each countries. Graphics by Zendesk

Second reason, chat can deliver sense of relationship the way that app cant. Here are three interesting customer insights in Accenture Digital Banking Consumer Survey :

  • 75 % of banking customer felt that their relationship with bank is transactional rather than relationship driven
  • More than half wants to get personalized recommendation on financial services from their banks
  • 40% of customers agree that personalized experience will makes them loyal to their bank

Three customer needs above are solvable using chat rather than apps. Simple emoji in chat could makes registration process warmer compare to filling registration forms in app. Personalized offers also not new for banks. Premium banking customer gets their own relationship managers who tailor offers and products all the time. The difference is with data science capability and chatbot delivery, banks could personalized offers efficiently at scale.

Third reasons is APIs is already available. Whatsapp API for example, enable every feature in the app to be programmable except groups. This will give lexibility to design experience on top of chat platforms.

Potential Use Case

Here are several ideas to leverage chat for financial services delivery. I use Whatsmock app on Android to give illustrations.

Friendlier forms

Most chat app support uploading image, files, video and audio. Most of them also has end-to-end encryption. Lots of people i know also substituted email to Whatsapp for sending stuffs. Hence i believe its natural if people start chatting to register something rather than filling forms.

Illustration on chat-based forms

Specific for user registration or KYC use case, chat is much more seamless to send selfie, ID cards photos or files compared to forms. .

Bit of caveat, if designed badly chat can become more confusing. This article by SmashingMagazine discussed that chat-based forms yield best result for simple use-case like basic support forms, order forms with predefined options and lead generation forms in a landing page. There is also this discussion on chat vs form to give wider nuance.

Convenient customer service

Based on Facebook IQ surveys, consumer agreed that chat is the easiest and most convenient way to contact a business. Chat also faster compared to call. Zendesk, in their 2020 state messaging report, published that messaging leads to higher customer satisfaction compared to other channel. Speed and convenience offered by chat could potentially turn angry customer into loyal advocates.

Great example on chat-based customer services is KLM, check out video below

Turning simple notifications into response

As a customer of financial services, you receive notification all the time. Payment due for loans, payment notifications on your bank account or thank you message for paying your premium on time. Usually its on sms. Have you ever thought to reply ?

Definitely not.

What if there is context-relevant message follow-ups after the notification.

Illustration on chat notifications

Routine notification becomes customer interaction which then lead into adoption.

Personal finance analysis

Lets expand the idea above. You turn on notification for every money-ins and outs. Now imagine if th service can interactively categorize each of those transactions and summarized in it a nice graphs. You have cool personal finance feature inside a chat.

Illustration on chat-based finance tracker

Taking lessons from personal app like YNAB, the feature can be explored further into :

  • Personalized product recommendation based on their income & expense (investment, fixed deposit, loans)
  • Budgeting features via chat. Youll get notifications if you cross-certain budget threshold.

Virtual insurance agents

Most of insurance, especially life, is sold in Indonesia through agents. This relationship happens through chat, Whatsapp most likely. With average agent commission of 30%, chatbot could make sales process cheaper and more efficient. Insurance companies might be able to create cheap mass product with chat as their primary channel.

However the reason why life insurance is agent-led is due to complexity of the product. Especially combined product like unitlink, the bread and butter of insurance agents.

Insurance chatbot is perfect for selling simple straight forward insurance like term-life. Low-price at scale.

Group buying, payments or crowdfunding

I believe creating Whatsapp group is to first thing to do if you need something done involving more than 3 people. Now if payment features arrived, things could get interesting. We can explore use case like group buying, crowd funding and group savings inside Whatsapp group.

Illustration of group buying


In October 2019, UK-based personal finance apps Cleo, proclaimed themselves as the fastest growth fintech after onboarding 600k users within a year. Cleo is chat-first app, accessible through Facebook Messenger. It can connect to 700 banks across the globe and offer personal finance services like savings, investment and cashback on payments.

Cleo is an extreme case where chat-only financial services could work. Im not saying banks and fintech should ditch their app altogether. I believe adding chat experience could deliver more inclusive and seamless experience around digital financial services.

Thats all for today. For more information on how financial services invest on chat, check out link below

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