Bank Cler sets standards in Switzerland with its digitization strategy. In February the banking house launched Zak, the first smartphone bank in the country, breaking away from traditional retail banking. The launch has been particularly well received by younger and tech-savvy customers.
This bank can fit into any trouser pocket: The Zak smartphone app from Bank Cler is revolutionizing banking in Switzerland. It’s a big pitch from the small Basel-based national banking house, and one that means it is taking a pioneering role in its market. Rather than transferring traditional e-banking juggernauts to the smartphone, Zak is consistently concentrating on those banking functions that customers actually need in their day-to-day lives.
WE ARE NOW COMMITTED TO DIGITIZATION AS AN ESSENTIAL COMPONENT OF OUR STRATEGY.
SMART BANKING THAT'S SIMPLE
For example, a quick glance at your smartphone will tell you how much cash you currently have available. Instead of rigid auxiliary accounts that are subject to fees, Zak offers “saving pots”. Users can create, amend or delete these pots at any time, free of charge, and even move money back and forth between the pots. The app also offers a chatbot messenger service which customers can use 24/7 for support and answers about the app itself, as well as for asking general questions on finances and financial preparedness. What’s more, the integrated Zak Store – a digital marketplace – provides supplementary offers from other companies, such as insurance providers and online retailers. The fact that the app can be used free of charge – including with debit and credit cards – is another appealing feature. “This uncompromising mobile-first approach is unique,” says Sandra Lienhart, CEO of Bank Cler. “We’ve developed Zak from the ground up, based on leading technologies, specifically for the smartphone. We are thereby enabling a user experience that young customers who use social media and messaging apps are familiar with. This draws attention to us, a small bank, and enables us to position ourselves as an innovative company with the courage to break out of the traditional business models operated by retail banks.”
INTO THE FUTURE WITH ZAK
The momentum for this innovation came from the repositioning of the institution, which was formerly known as Bank Coop. The company took on the new name of Bank Cler after the Coop retail business sold its remaining shares in Basler Kantonalbank in 2017. “Cler” means clear, straightforward and evident in Rhaeto-Romanic, the fourth national language of Switzerland. “When we analyzed our customer structure as part of the rebranding, we identified a particular need to bring on board new customers under the age of 40,” Sandra Lienhart explains.
For this reason, the bank created an innovation project focused on the needs of young people, who were then incorporated into the app’s development on an ongoing basis. From contact with friends to planning travel, young people use smartphones to organize vast areas of their lives on a mobile basis. Sandra Lienhart: “It quickly became clear to us that that’s where we needed to engage.”
At the same time, leaders at the bank knew that not all of their customers wanted their bank to only be available via smartphone. For this reason, despite its “mobile first” approach, Bank Cler wanted to continue to be a concrete entity and retain a physical presence. “We are now committed to digitization as an essential component of our strategy. However, a key and central factor for success is how we will bring digital offerings into line with our lean physical branch network.”