a person looking at a whatsapp screen

Banks in India are piloting text alerts on WhatsApp instead of SMS. Source: Shutterstock

Is it time for banks to WhatsApp instead of SMS alerts?

BANKS in India are looking to use WhatsApp as a platform to communicate with their customers.

According to the Hindustan Times, at least five major banks in the country are testing text-based customer alerts on the chat platform. The messages will include information about ATM cash withdrawal, point of sale (PoS) transactions, and fund transfers.

This is part of a larger trend where companies are employing messaging apps as a platform to engage with their customers.

Currently, banks are required by regulation to send alerts for basic transactions via SMS to a user’s registered mobile. Depending on user opt-in, emails act as an additional communications channel.

According to regulations by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), banks cannot discontinue the SMS service. However, if customers choose to receive WhatsApp only alerts, it could become the sole mode of communication between the bank and the customer.

Banking alerts sent on chat apps are not new. In China, banks are already integrating this function into the country’s popular chat platform, WeChat.

Apps such as WeChat and Line allow businesses to “follow” a verified account to receive updates such as news and promotions. Businesses can also interact with customers via individual chats.

Similarly, on WhatsApp, a bank has to integrate with WhatsApp for Business and appear as a verified account. Beyond banks, other businesses like Netflix and several airlines are already using WhatsApp for Business to update customers about transactions and offers.

It makes sense for banks in India to employ WhatsApp to reach its customers. WhatsApp is the most popular chat platform in the country, recording 200 million monthly active users.

Currently, most banks are only piloting a one-way messaging system. Several of them are looking into allowing customers to reply to messages for two-way communication.

For example, IndusInd Bank allows customers to request for basic banking services such as balance inquiries and requesting for mini statements through WhatsApp.