Trade Me's local online dominance could help cushion NZ banks from global behemoths Google and Facebook entering their space, Ernst & Young suggests

Trade Me's local online dominance could help cushion NZ banks from global behemoths Google and Facebook entering their space, Ernst & Young suggests

By Gareth Vaughan

Trade Me's strong position in the local online, and burgeoning mobile commerce, markets could help protect local banks from the invasion of the likes of Facebook and Google into traditional bank financial intermediary space, Ernst & Young says.

Speaking to about an E&Y international report entitled Smart Commerce, Banks battle for customers at the frontline of digital retail, Chris de Wit, the local leader of E&Y financial services advisory, said New Zealand has some singular features.

The report describes the evolving digital retail landscape as "Smart Commerce." It says banks regard the main risk posed to them by Smart Commerce as customer intermediation, and the decline in bank relevance to consumer commerce should this occur.

However de Wit said in terms of global behemoths like Facebook and Google, the big New Zealand issue is 'the block in our market" in the form of Trade Me as the primary digital transacting source.

"We know it (Trade Me) as a second hand goods trading area, but it's also a cheap alternative to small organisations when establishing a digital distribution portal," said de Wit.

This was something New Zealand's numerous small and medium sized companies could use.

"Trade Me is not part of that global network. EBay is popular all over the world bar here. That (Trade Me) is a bit of a handbrake on that stuff," said de Wit (pictured).

And for e-commerce specialist PayPal, de Wit said the best way to make head way in New Zealand would be to leverage off a consumer based online loyalty scheme. Within New Zealand de Wit suggested there were technology developers and payments innovators with the potential to present a real threat to banks if they moved "far enough down the value chain."  He declined to name specific companies. 

Three main challenges

The E&Y report notes participants in its study, which were 41 senior executives from financial services companies across the Americas, Europe and the Asia-Pacific (but not NZ), identified three main challenges to the delivery of Smart Commerce strategies. These were; overcoming conservative internal cultures, selecting the best "solution" when there is no clear winner, plus fraud/data security risks and ensuring regulators are "kept up to speed."

"At Ernst & Young we recognise both that the intermediation fears exhibited in this study are well founded but also that Smart Commerce presents an unusual opportunity for financial services institutions to generate revenue from a profit pool to which they have had little access to date: retail sales promotion."

De Wit said for banks the fact they 'govern" access to customers' transactional accounts means they can control what accesses them. That said, consumer laws, consumer rights and customers' own preferences will ultimately determine what they do.

Keep an eye on RealMe

RealMe, the recently launched government (Department of Internal Affairs and NZ Post) secure online identity verification service, was also a key factor to watch, de Wit said. RealMe provides a single login to multiple government websites with a verified RealMe account working as someone's online identification. As RealMe's website puts it: "With a verified account you’ll be able to officially prove who you are during important online transactions, so you won’t need to front up in person."

"If people start to take the RealMe path quickly and we start buying things like electricity online or telecommunications online, we start procuring government services online by virtue of having one of these accounts, it's going to open up a lot more channels than the current Trade Me only option for payment services. Really trying to enter or break into that bank space," said de Wit.
He noted New Zealand consumers tend to adopt new technologies quite quickly if they provide a strong convenience factor. But as the volume of transactions through digital channels and digital payment methods grows, privacy issues will become "enormous" for a number of entities, for whom they currently aren't necessarily a big deal.
"There's going to be a lot more digital data held, there's going to be a lot more information held. We can already see that with the cookies that follow people around. That in a way is an element of privacy data as well," said de Wit.

"I think there's an issue coming up between the historical view of privacy and the convenience and access to digital information. I just don't know that we're going to be able to logically manage privacy issues in the way that the law says we should today. I don't think that's going to stop people moving into the digital area at all. Those are two things that are going to butt up against each other."

Then with the hosting of digital services being outsourced overseas, the issue of whose laws need to be complied with comes into play.

Speed versus utilisation

Key factors for banks moving into the Smart Commerce era were speed to market and utilisation, de Wit suggested.

"The first one suggests banks acting alone are likely to be more effective. The second one points to more of a utility approach to some of these things. The utility approach will in fact be a situation where more people will use the service and that's likely to be a big barrier for anyone entering this market," he said.

Meanwhile, the E&Y report suggests the real value in Smart Commerce will come from new services that genuinely improve consumers' lives and help merchants meet consumers' needs more efficiently and conveniently.

"Many of these new services are also likely to be disruptive to existing offerings. Our respondents said these disruptive services are likely to bring together location tools, social networking, scanning, mobile and payment technologies in new ways, potentially evolving in a manner that has not yet even been considered," E&Y said.

"Putting aside different views on future Smart Commerce services, all respondents recognised that the creative and insightful use of data will be at the heart of these offerings. Our interviewees also recognised that the creation and ownership of the right data is likely to be a critical differentiator for firms looking to play a part in a Smart Commerce future."

'Banks face serious threats & the risk of being diminished to utility status'

The report also pointed out banks and card processors have at least some concern about the direct revenue impact of their customers' adoption of digital wallets for purchasing.

"The poor relative economics of accepting cards as a funding source makes it likely that wallet providers will strongly encourage direct funding from bank accounts through an Automated Clearing House instead. This is likely to reduce card usage and revenue for bank card issuers," E&Y said.

"The other direct impact cited by a third of interviewees was that some consumers would start to maintain a balance in their digital wallets, which previously would have been held in a current account, thus reducing a vital source of low-cost funding previously considered reliable and stable."

E&Y says to maintain relevance to customers banks and payment providers need to find ways to accommodate the rapid development time scales demanded by Smart Commerce within big organisations conditioned to a slow pace of change. Furthermore they need to think in new ways about how their Smart Commerce services can add value in the broader context of peoples' lives and merchants' businesses, plus address fraud and data security risks.

"For many this will involve relearning the merchant business with which many banks have lost connection. Indeed, merchants are the new value pool for Smart Commerce and are innovating on their own account with services including payment. Larger merchants are already offering proprietary payment services, which intermediate banks and threaten to go further."

"Banks face some serious threats and the risk of gradually being diminished to utility status. However, if they make the right choices, banks could find themselves enjoying a continued and expanding role at the forefront of the Smart Commerce revolution," said E&Y.

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Not sure how topical this really is
Read this BBC news article from 2009 - 5 years ago
Then read about m-Pesa - it's not even a bank - it's a micro-service
and it's already available in New Zealand and Australia

Yes, interesting developments in African finance there two otherguys. And the relevance to NZ is?

The relevance Gareth is that the article is about alternatives to our current banks.  And that is what the African stuff certainly is.

Pretty obscure though KH.

I think it's not obscure at all and it is entirely relevant to NZ....that is, if NZ is part of a global economy that is focused on the emergence of the 3rd world. We can actually learn from some of the developments in countries such as Kenya and Vietnam. The world extends beyond the offices of ANZ, Westpac, etc. On that note, CBA planned on a mobile banking "revolution" in Vietnam. Nothing happened. They didn't get it. Companies such as jana and Paypal do. 

Totally agree that NZ and NZ companies should be open to learning from so-called third world countries.
My point was just that the links from 'two other guys' go to a BBC story about how mobile banking is popular in Africa. This isn't surprising given in some parts of the continent telephony development went straight to mobile skipping fixed-lines, and a service promoting money transfers to Kenya.
So just not sure how relevant these two particular examples are to NZ...

Should you investigate further you will find it's not about money-transfers and mobile-banking - there are no banks - it's about how they do business - e-Commerce, bypassing the banks altogether

Good to see you have fleshed out your points in more detail below. It gives a better understanding of where you're coming from than just posting links. 
Yes, absolutely the technology to cut banks out of the picture altogether has been around for sometime now. My point is that your example of Africa is of a very different society to NZ where technology has developed in a different way, and as you say, there isn't always even the option of a bank.
We can certainly learn from what has happened there.
But here we have strong, well entrenched banks who will not stand by and watch lots of their customers walk out the door. They will fight back. There are new markets banks are dominanting too. Look at KiwiSaver, just six years old and ANZ, Westpac and ASB are three of the four dominant players (along with AMP) in terms of funds under management.
That said, banks face significant challenges and it's going to be an interesting few years ahead.

How is it relevant to NZ? If you remove national borders and economic development, the common element is "transation", which happens every second of every waking hour. Empowering the individual is maybe more dramatic in the developing world, but Westerners need to wake from their slumber. How much of that transaction is mediated through banks and is it the best alternative? Maybe, maybe not. For example, I never use banks to transfer money across national borders, I use OzForex. It's a solution. 

Trademe.  What an economic powerhouse for New Zealanders that is.  I wonder what the number are.   It would an interesting thing to discover just how big the efficiencies are for New Zealanders that it creates.  A huge economic engine that turns somebodys junk into another treasure through IT.  Wonderbar. 

This article didn't mention bitcoin. Laugh if you must but I don't believe banks are ready for the speed at which people could simply switch currencies. Banks are technology followers not leaders, they have not done anything original in 100 years.

There are a number of "messages" in this article discussing "traditional bank intermediation" quoting an "international report" about "smart commerce" and how Banks are in a "battle for customers at the frontline of digital retail"
Here are the obvious ones
1. The E&Y report notes participants in its study, which were 41 senior executives from financial services companies across the Americas, Europe and the Asia-Pacific (but not NZ) and not Africa
Question: So what is the relevance of an "international report" to New Zealand, when

2. Mr de Wit is addressing a market of a mere 3 million NZ consumers of what "might" happen

3. Mr de Wit suggests operators in the digital space CAN take that intermediation away from banks

4. Fails to mention that 100 million people in Africa have ALREADY done exactly that, years ago

5. The technology is there. They had to bypass banks because there were no banks available.

6. Their mobile phones are their store of wealth, on the phone card. No banks. No intermediaries.
7. It's been invented. It's been done. Why re-invent the wheel. No bank fees. No charges.

Banks risk being 'diminished to utility status'
But they are:
Structurally, credit is manufactured outside of the deposit base. Look at any BIS report over the past 30 years - dis intermediation.... Look at history of Mike P mortgages etc...
but for only the PR and Spin of customer relationships, they are no differnt to telcoms or electricity retailers. (better placed with gov/tax payer gtee)
and the binary thinking of manyborrowers (will I / won't get a loan)..
look at C of E + credit societies, v the payday lenders....
It seems it is only the way it is for as long as you believe it is the way it is ..... - deep indeed...