Communications initiative: Bank of Portugal

Launch of two mobile apps marked the final steps to redesign digital communication channels

The Bank of Portugal’s intranet
The Bank of Portugal’s intranet

Communication plays a crucial role in fulfilling the missions and functions of central banks. The implementation of effective policy not only relies upon external communication but also internal communication. Effective internal communication can help to build organisational identity, improves productivity, and ensures integration of a central bank’s strategic objectives across departments.

The Bank of Portugal has placed building a strong connection between its external communication and internal communication as a strategic goal in recent years. “It is paramount to ensuring effective, efficient and coherent communications,” Luís Campos, head of digital communication, tells Central Banking.

The central bank launched two new mobile applications – one for the general public and the other for its employees – in 2020, marking the final step in a long journey to redesign its digital communication channels. 

“With everyone getting their information from their mobile phones, the applications are a way to provide the public and our staff with the best experience,” Bruno Proença, director of communications at Bank of Portugal, tells Central Banking.

The journey started back in 2016, with redesigns of its website and internal intranet, as well as a social media campaign. The website and intranet simplified the browsing experiences, introduced new ‘social enablers’ and multimedia tools, and reorganised the presentation of key information based on careful usability studies.

Revamping the central bank’s external communications was targeted towards enabling the general public to be more knowledgeable about the economic and financial reality of the country. By harnessing the benefits and popularity of digitised communication, the new tools have helped the central bank to communicate more proactively with its target audiences. 

“The new external channels have been fundamental to our communicating with the general public during the pandemic crisis,” says Campos.

Reaching younger people 

The external app disseminates all the information the central bank releases on a regular basis, such as press releases, information videos, forecasts and interviews.

“[Speaking] as a journalist, the app has provided a more convenient way to access the central bank’s announcements, particularly if I am on the go,” Diogo Cavaleiro, a journalist at Expresso newspaper, tells Central Banking.

The app also provides an important access point for the services the central bank offers to citizens. For example, the public may view ‘loan map’ data on depository institutions to evaluate the stability of their banks.

“When we closed all our agencies due to the pandemic, when many people come to us to print their loan maps, we could then tell them to use our online services,” says Campos.

“Citizens can now conveniently access these important services to make more informed financial decisions.”

The decision to launch the app followed insights gained from a central bank usability and engagement study. Recognising that more than one-third of the central bank’s website traffic was originating from mobile devices, the launch of a mobile app was a “natural progression” for the central bank, Proença says, adding that it also reinforces the bank’s engagement with younger generations.

Since its launch in March, the app has been downloaded by more than 7,200 users, with more than 540,000 actions registered in the app and an average engagement time of over seven minutes.

Coherent communications

Strengthening internal communication was equally important, given the central bank’s increased attention on productivity and more collaborative working environments. Bank of Portugal defines the internal app, and intranet more broadly, as a key pillar of its communication strategy. By providing information to its employees in a timely and convenient manner, the central bank hopes to contribute to the understanding and assimilation of its strategic objectives across departments.

“This better prepares employees to follow the bank’s external communication strategy,” says Campos. “This is even more important today, under the new digital workplace environment we all work in.”

Campos adds that the app can also help maintain a “collective identity” during this new remote-working environment. 

The app also has some useful features to support day-to-day life when employees are in the office. These include: booking rooms; lunch schedules; events updates; a chat room; and contact information page.

“It helps remove barriers to productivity, so that everyone can work effectively and has access to all relevant information – especially when on the move. It just makes things easier,” Joel Graça Alves, an international relations official at the central bank, tells Central Banking.

The communications team also quickly added some targeted Covid-19 features to support ongoing health measures, such as a tool to check how busy the canteen is before heading to lunch and direct access to the central bank’s internal doctor. 

“Checking the occupancy of the canteen before making your way over is pretty helpful with our efforts to socially distance at work,” says Alves. 

The app has been installed by more than 65% of employees, with close to 9,000 single actions taken by users, such as booking rooms or checking canteen occupancy.

“Since many employees are working from home at the moment, we think this engagement is a strong start,” says Campos.

Time to market

A clear benefit of the central bank’s efforts to redesign its communication channels was the ability to introduce the new tools in time to assist during Covid-19 lockdowns. The addition of more user-friendly websites and mobile apps during the pandemic, which has accelerated many trends towards digitisation, has helped reinforce effective communications. 

“The app was the final step in a broad digital strategy to target more of our population,” says Campos. “And I am glad we got the time to market just right.”

The Central Banking Awards were written by Christopher Jeffery, Daniel Hinge, Dan Hardie, Rachael King, Victor Mendez-Barreira, William Towning and Alice Shen

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