Thursday, April 15

The wonderful secrets of eKonto


Here's a word-of-mouth tip: Raiffeisen's eKonto is an excellent product. Don't worry; nobody paid me to write this, and this story is also about how difficult it has been to discover how good it is.

If you are reading this, you probably prefer internet banking; you probably travel to or do business in neighbouring countries, and resent paying currency charges; you probably pay at least 25k monthly into a bank account; and you probably believe that bank charges for basic current accounts should not exist. If so, eKonto is the stuff of dreams. It does not charge fixed monthly fees if you meet certain conditions. Those conditions are a bit complicated, but for most of you, your monthly salary, paid into eKonto, will easily meet the conditions. That's a good start, but the multi-currency element is really unusual. You can effectively 'partition' your account into several sub-accounts in different currencies, under one account number. You get one debit/ATM card; if you have money in your Czech and Euro sub-accounts, and use an ATM, it will take the money from your Czech account if you are in Prague, and from your euro account if you are in Bratislava. And you can earn interest on savings deposits too.

Now most people I have told this story to have been pleasantly surprised, which suggests that the multiple benefits of eKonto are not being effectively communicated. It has actually taken three weeks for me to find out from RB what eKonto can do, and that I really don't need my RB current or savings account, because eKonto can do it all.

It seems to happen a lot in both banks and telcos that the employees who deal with customers do not themselves have anything like a perfect knowledge of their range of products and services.The companies have sophisticated 'pricing models' which drive them to make frequent changes to their products, and supposedly optimise their revenues. But it leaves them vulnerable to new entrants who come in with simpler products.

As for eKonto it is actually quite a tricky product to market. When it was launched, the marketing team led by Petr Pistelak very effectively communicated the 'free banking' message, which had and has a wide appeal. Petr had come from P&G and both product and campaign had all the P&G hallmarks: Clear product advantage over the competition, and clear communication of that advantage through TV advertising. But P&G products each do one thing, well. eKonto does several things well, and different types of customers will be interested in different elements. Everyone wants "free banking", but relatively less people have wanted a multiple currency account. But that group is growing; they find themselves in the Eurozone on business regularly and are now aware that shopping there, either directly or on the net, saves them money (provided they don't have to pay currrency exchange charges). You, dear reader, are probably in that group. How should RB reach you?, sponsored by eKonto? Just another dream....

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