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Speaking at the BlackBerry Live event in Florida, ING Direct CIO Charaka Kithulegoda said the pilot is proving successful so far, and is likely to be rolled out in the next month.
ING Direct, which was started in Canada in 1997, has no branches – it communicates with its customers only through online channels, call centres and mobile services.
This business model has allowed the bank to lead the way in many areas of banking technology. ING was the first Canadian bank to offer BlackBerry and iPhone apps in 2009, and it took at least nine months for its competitors to catch up, according to Kithulegoda.
“We were the first bank in North America to offer a banking app on the Z10 platform and the only bank in the world to have an application on the Q10. We are one of the very few banks in the world to support all the major platforms,” he said.
“Mobility was a natural extension for us. We’re not looking at it for the latest technology fad or doing it because everyone else is, we’re looking at it purely from a customer standpoint,” said Kithulegoda. “Where do our customers want us to be and how do our customers want to interact with us?"
He said that while the bank offers a “fantastic" website and call centre service, it recognises that its customers do not do their banking on their home PCs or during breaks at work, they are doing it on the move – while walking to the station or popping out to get lunch.
BlackBerry handsets get thumbs up from ING staff
With fewer than 1,000 employees, the pilot of 300 handsets is a large number for the bank. “We are piloting the Z10 [touch device] and Q10 [QWERTY keyboard]. There are a few people in the company who absolutely want the keyboard, so we support both devices,” he said.
Feedback from ING employees using the new BlackBerry devices is that the typing is fantastic and the “browser actually works now and it’s amazingly fast”, said Kithulegoda.
He added that BlackBerry’s intuitive email enhancements, such as the ability to organise meetings with large numbers of people seamlessly without going through multiple email threads, work well for ING.
“When we went into the pilot, I was sceptical. People told me it was going to be easy – turn it on and you’re ready to go. I was pleasantly surprised that it was as easy as [the BlackBerry] team told us. And we are very close to working on BES to support other devices as well,” said Kithulegoda.
Support for multiple mobile devices
One of the new features of the management tool is that BlackBerry is now able to accommodate Android and iOS devices as part of its mobile device management (MDM) solution.
The company announced a few updates to BES at BlackBerry Live this week, to provide more management capabilities for non-BlackBerry devices, as well as more security features, including secure storage email, pin entry and connectivity using BlackBerry transport as a mobile virtual private network (VPN).
“ING's goal, from an IT standpoint, is to support more than one device platform. But from an infrastructure standpoint, there are risks in operating multiple platforms because fragmentation management issues could leak to security issues, especially when you’re dealing with a small team. So the goal is to move to a single MDM platform and manage all our devices through that platform,” said Kithulegoda.
Previously, he said, ING was using one of the top three mobile device management platforms in the market to control its fleet of devices. In piloting BlackBerry’s BES10, the bank looked at Android, iPhone and Windows phones to evaluate which devices to support – it chose to support BlackBerry's Z10 and Q10 handsets.
“But that’s not to say that some of our employees are going to like that decision – they will want to use their device of choice," he said. "From an IT standpoint, I’d love to have the Z10, because it makes support easier, but the reality is that we will have to support multiple devices.
"BlackBerry has a single management platform, and from what we have seen it gives us the ability to apply corporate policies and the government’s requirements to all the other devices as well,” said Kithulegoda.
While the bank is open to supporting other handsets, Kithulegoda said it will do so on a “best efforts basis”.
Balancing business and personal device data
The BlackBerry 10 operating system's BlackBerry Balance feature, which allows users to keep their personal and work lives separated on a single device, has become very appealing to enterprises.
The work profile is secured under the BES10 standards, and corporations also have the option to be able to wipe business data from the phone without destroying the employee’s personal information, photos and contacts.
“Our commitment with our partnership with BlackBerry is going to be to the enterprise: that corporate data is going to be secure, no data leakage, we are going to meet all the privacy and regulatory commitments, the login is going to work, and if somebody decides to leave, then we can very securely and effectively wipe that data off the device," said Kithulegoda.
"Today, if we wipe a device, we wipe that person’s personal device; with the new solutions, we just wipe half of the device and we are done,” he added.
The bank is intending to go into full production with the release of the next version of BlackBerry Enterprise Server – BES10.1 – in June.