17 February, 2020
WhatsApp banking takes off in Brazil

Brazilians are rapidly taking to the messaging app WhatsApp to chat with Bradesco’s bot and renegotiate debt at Banco do Brasil, as digital banking surges in Brazil

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By Katie Llanos-Small

 

Brazilians – and their banks – are increasingly comfortable managing their finances over messaging service WhatsApp.

Latin America’s most popular messaging app is growing in importance for banks who want to deal with customers on their territory. And customers are responding enthusiastically to WhatsApp banking opportunities, according to the banks’ latest financial reports.

Clients of Banco Bradesco used WhatsApp to consult the bank’s artificial intelligence-powered chat bot 88.5 million times last year. That’s a 16-fold increase from WhatsApp interactions the previous year.

More than 3.5 million clients have interacted with the bank via its WhatsApp service, Bradesco said in its 2019 financial results, released earlier this month.

The surge in WhatsApp-based banking interactions comes as banks across Latin America work on better ways to offer client services. Banks are moving beyond their own, branded spaces – and into the apps and platforms that their customers use on a daily basis.

See also: Brazilian banks launch APIs, open banking strategies

Itau, Bradesco’s biggest private-sector competitor, allows clients to check their balances via WhatsApp, although the bank did not reveal usage details in its latest figures.

Some banks have gone much further in the services they offer over WhatsApp.

Banco do Brasil, for example, launched a debt restructuring service via the messaging platform in September. Customers can chat with a bot on over WhatsApp about their loan payments, before being passed over to a specialist – also on the messaging platform – to finalize a new debt structure.

Customers have renegotiated BRL20 million through WhatsApp already, Banco do Brasil said in its 2019 financial results.

See also: Brazil gets closer to QR-based instant payments

Brazil’s digital banking surge

The move to WhatsApp banking in Brazil is part of a broader trend to digital banking channels for Brazilians.

Both Bradesco and Itau reported strong growth in digital customers in their 2019 results. Bradesco registered 15.8 million active digital clients in December, while Itau had 12.5 million individual clients using digital channels. In both cases, the figure grew around 12% over the course of 2019.

Some 81% of payments by Itau’s retail clients went through digital channels, as did 95% of their bank to bank transfers.

Itau has 10 digital journeys that it has selected for priority treatment as part of its digital transformation strategy. These include opening and operating personal accounts and business accounts, credit cards, working capital loans and financial advisory services.

The bank, which bought technology outsourcing company Zup late last year, is trying to address these journeys from all angles. It has the “world’s largest voice transcription” operation, it says. Here it listens to and analyzes every customer call – more than 350,000 a day, on average.

Itau also showed strong digital customer acquisition, opening some 268,000 new accounts digitally in the last quarter of 2019, up from 225,000 a year earlier.

Bradesco lifted its game in digital onboarding, with 340,000 customers using the mobile app to open an account last year. That figure was 78,000 in 2018. It also dramatically increased sign ups at its digital spin-off bank, Next, last year, growing the client base from 500,000 to 1.8 million. Next aims to reach 3.5 million clients by the end of this year.

See also: Brazilians rush to digital banking options

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