RBC mulls bill aggregation with Facebook

Canada’s largest bank is thinking about following up the changes it has made to electronic bill and statement presentation by exploring integration with leading social networking sites.

Two years ago RBC won a 2007 Canadian Information Productivity Award for its client reporting centre of excellence program, which was created to deal with the way bills, statements and other information is offered online. RBC worked with Symcor to create a common composition engine that draws raw data feeds relating to 18 different banking products from is core systems and offering them into a single form of reporting.

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According to Colin McKay, vice-president of e-business architecture at RBC, the system has saved millions on paper statements and generated more revenue from optional fee-based services. The biggest benefit, however, may be a more personalized banking experience through a service called client preference and choice.

“Instead of you getting 18 different statements from the bank then we would be able to combine the information into whatever number of statements you would like to have,” he said. “It also allows us to customize how that data goes together and then link that with our CRM systems and customize statement messages, marketing messages, and eventually over time we’ll allow you to create whatever kind of statement you want.”

When the electronic bill payment and presentment (EBPP) market emerged near the beginning of the decade, the choice for consumers came down to registering with a site like Canada Post’s Epost, or making a specific visit to the bank’s own portal. McKay said Facebook, MySpace and Twitter have changed all that.

“Obviously we would like clients to come to our Web site, but that’s not always the client’s preference would be,” he said. “I think you’re going to see a convergence between how we set up social networking groups within the bank’s container vs. public social networking sites.”

McKay said RBC has begun talking internally about the idea of bill aggregation within Facebook, for example. He likened the situation to people who live outside the city or seniors who made periodic visits downtown and want to accomplish several tasks.

“When I go into a social networking site, I want to do multiple things. One of those things I might want to do is pay my bills,” he said. “What I don’t want to do is go to six different Web sites and eventually sign in six different times. We’re trying to create that kind of environment within the bank’s community, but we also recognize that as people get more involved with social networking sites that there’s a desire to conduct multiple business transactions.”

Maggie Fox, CEO of Dundas, Ont.-based consultantcy Social Media Group, said RBC’s thinking makes perfect sense.

“That’s the way people exist online. It’s an ambient experience. They leave (those sites) open all day long. There’s no real boundary. To be quite honest, when you look at the amount of time people spend online, everyone needs to integrate with the largest, most populous platforms. Do you or do you not want to be there?”

Bill aggregation with social media would create interesting opportunities around customization, Fox added. Users could pick and choose from widgets with specific alerts and add them to their site profiles.

“I may not care about my credit card statement because I don’t use it that often, so why is it taking up this important real estate? I might be able to see my energy consumption on my utility bill and drop that into my banking profile to see all of my bills,” she said.

Security would obviously be a major concern, Fox added, though companies may be able to get around it by working with third-party providers such as OpenID. McKay said RBC’s global identity program is already tackling single sign-on approaches and how to better manage online accounts.

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