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ING Direct Canada Tests Low- and High-Tech Touches

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MIAMI ING Direct Canada is testing an onboarding process that will reduce by 80% the number of questions that new customers have to answer.

Charaka Kithulegoda, chief information officer of ING Direct Canada, said during his keynote address at the Mobile Banking and Commerce Summit that the bank aims to halve what has been a five-minute process.

ING Direct is also running authentication pilot programs of voice and facial recognition biometrics with an aim to enhance security and customer trust. It plans to start offering mobile remote deposit capture to its customers this month.

"Technology plays a huge role in our organization," Kithulegoda said.

The chief goal behind such projects is to improve service. "Putting the customer first is core to our business," Kithulegoda said.

Banks need to adjust to shifting customer expectations, he told the audience.

"It used to be a model of providing excellent service to customers on" banks' terms, Kithulegoda said.

It was the banks that determined how customers could interact with them, such as at teller windows between such and such hours.

Times have changed.

"Today, consumers tell us when and how they want to interact with us," Kithulegoda said.

Given these new expectations, "remaining stagnant is not an option for us," he said.

ING Direct Canada offers mobile banking apps for every platform, including Windows 8 and BlackBerry 10.

In May, 18% of the bank's transactions were over mobile devices, he said.

"Mobile is everywhere," he said. "It's becoming the primary way people interact with us."

In developing mobile apps, ING Direct Canada emphasizes making banking simple and being relevant to clients.

"It's not about content," Kithulegoda said. "It's about context."

He pointed out that ING Direct Canada will not allow customers to download iPad apps onto their iPhones.

One reason is, "It would be a horrible experience," Kithulegoda said.

The bank's earliest mobile banking app required consumers to take four steps to retrieve account balances way too long for those people who need to know their balance for things like grocery shopping.

Four weeks after that debut, the bank begun allowing people to check their balances without needing to log in to their accounts.

"It's innovation through iteration," Kithulegoda said.

Banks have to put more thought into providing consumers with an engaging banking experience, and try not to worry too much about regulation, he told the audience.

"The downside of fear gets completely outweighed by the opportunity in front of us," he said. "The future is exciting."

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