Sunday 02, July 2017 by Nabilah Annuar

The personal touch with customisable cards

By Eric Claudel, President Banking & Payments for the CISMEA region at Gemalto.

Historically, banks have had a one-size-fits-all product offering for their clients. Today, the banking sector is exposed to innovative new technologies, ushering in an era in which mass customisation is feasible, safe and profitable. Banks of all sizes around the world have been refocusing their strategies to grow top-line revenues through innovation and customer experience. Today’s customers demand specialised products, high-quality service and a degree of personalisation, a true differentiator between banks.

Banks have increasingly been focusing, in recent years, on a personal approach to retain customers and have a competitive edge. In the Middle East region, with nearly 52 million people, it can be easy to get lost in the crowd—so it is crucial for banks to find a way to stand out for customers to take notice. One cost-effective and relatively simple way to do this is through personalisation of payment cards.  

In the Middle East & Africa region alone, more and more countries and financial institutions are migrating to EMV smart banking cards standards, bringing enhance security to payment transaction at point of sales, thanks to PIN codes. We expect more than 902 million EMV banking cards will be in circulation by 2021, up from 303 million in 2015.  While smart banking cards are gaining popularity in a region where cash has predominantly been king, there is still scope for banks to provide a more personalised approach and this is where customised cards come into play.

We have identified five key reasons why these cards can bring measureable advantage to banks that keep them front of mind for card providers.

The chance to be unique

As we’ve mentioned already, most customers are keen to find any way to distinguish themselves today. They want to be different and seen as an individual when dealing with their bank and day to day payments. A customisable card gives you the chance to experience this—it’s an easy way to keep a customer happy and to not feel like one of the masses. The whole point is to drive usage. While there is so much competition out there, it is fairly easy for banks to implement customised cards and get their cards prime position in customers’ wallets. Through this personalisation, customers can add a creative twist to their cards, to make monetary transactions more personal and fun too.

One example, especially welcome and popular in this part of the world, where banks are liaising with VIP customers, with high expectations, is the use of metal cards. These customised cards are being labelled as the ‘ultimate status symbol’ and are exclusive to High Net Worth Individuals or anyone who has the means to get their hands on one. These cards give ultra-wealthy cardholders the differentiation they seek with these desirable pieces of luxury.

Innovative card bodies

Customisable cards give customers and banks the chance to go green, thanks to improved production methods. Responsible, green and sustainable banking is crucial now, especially if new customers are to be acquired and existing ones retained. Fortunately, there are sustainable options available for customisable cards, which offer a “carbon offset” solution to compensate greenhouse gas emissions generated by card production.

Today, there are a myriad of customised cards available with varying bodies and finishing options including transparent cards, 3D cards and bio-sourced cards. Of particular relevance in our region are bio-sourced cards made out of renewable materials such as poly lactic acid that provide a green offering to customers. These cards are also temperature-resistant which is especially important in this region given the high temperatures in the summer months.

Card differentiation

Sometimes, it’s easy to confuse different payment cards you may have in your wallet. This situation can be especially confusing for people who have three to four cards. Some people want to, understandably, have separate cards for separate things, such as personal spending versus family or business spending. Customisable cards give these people an easy way to distinguish between what they should and shouldn’t be using for different purposes.

Opportunities for issuers, banks and third parties

Customisable cards also provide an excellent opportunity for issuers and banks to involve third parties in transaction processes and implement loyalty programmes. This can be very beneficial for retailers such as supermarkets that can partner with banks. As an example, each time a consumer uses their custom card issued by their bank, co-branded by a partnering supermarket, they would receive a 10 per cent discount or loyalty points.

Have some fun!

Customised cards have not only revolutionised the way consumers and businesses can make payments, but have also provided the much needed ‘personal touch’ and allowing consumers to have some fun. Through customised cards, card holders can personalise their payment cards using their own photos—a beloved pet, a memorable trip or even pictures of family and friends.

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