“I met a robot last week,” might not be something you’d hear a typical banking CEO say, but when it comes to the world of Canadian banking Peter Aceto, and his company Tangerine, are anything but typical.
Tangerine primarily serves its customers online rather than through brick-and-mortar locations — a format known as direct banking. Though it’s a relatively young brand in the eyes of the Canadian public, it was initially founded in 1997 as ING Direct Canada, a telephone banking service that offered savings accounts.
Its transition into an innovative digital-first institution began in 2012, when the company was purchased from its Netherlands-based parent company by Scotiabank.
Since then it’s been making waves, particularly when it comes to mobile innovations — perhaps most notably becoming the first bank in Canada to offer mobile cheque depositing in 2013.
As the company’s eighth employee, Aceto has seen much of this innovation firsthand, making his casual reference to chatting with a robot understandable. For Aceto, that’s just a routine visit to the company’s R&D department, where they’re investigating the possibility of employing a robot to interact with customers at its cafes or mobile pop-ups.
He notes, however, that these sorts of projects often spend many years in development before making their way to consumers, while some never make it all. Considering the hit or miss nature of technology development, it’s impressive just how many new features Tangerine does manage to get out the door.
In the span of the last four months, the company debuted a secure chat platform for mobile and became the first banking app in Canada to offer eye-verification features for mobile banking, as well as amongst the first to offer vocal verification. Most recently, it implemented a new all-digital on-boarding process.
The process streamlines the sign-up process significantly by cutting cheques and paperwork out of the process entirely, requiring only some personal information and an e-signature. Aceto says the key to implementing so many new features is partnerships.
“You can’t have and maintain the expertise to do all these things in-house, particularly now,” says Aceto, “We have a core group that do R&D internally and development internally, but we also partner with a variety of different companies to help us with R&D and innovation.”
The CEO also notes that much of what the company is doing now has only recently become possible, as the government gradually modernizes the industry’s rules and regulations. Specifically, the ability to use data and information from third-party agencies as a legitimate form of authorization.
Aceto says the government has started to realize, “you can get to know the customer, you can be safe and secure — more so, without having to stand in front of a teller.”
On top of all that, Tangerine recently rolled out support for Apple Pay, yet another new mobile feature that will undoubtedly please Tangerine customers, considering 37 percent of Tangerine’s total transactions are conducted through its mobile banking app.
“We think about the mobile experience first,” says Aceto, adding, “We want the predominant amount of our interactions to happen on mobile.”
Even as Tangerine works toward that scenario, its digital-first approach has drawn in 120,000 Canadians in 2015 alone, and this year the bank expects an additional 160,000. Altogether, the company now serves just under two million clients, while Aceto believes eight million more are likely ready to switch to the digital ease of direct banking.
“We’ve seen it in the numbers, every year more and more Canadians are joining Tangerine,” says Aceto, “We just need to find a way to move as many obstacles out of the way.”
Related reading: Tangerine and PC Financial rollout support for Apple Pay