Internet, mobile banking catching on gradually

Less than 10 per cent of commercial banks’ retail customers are currently taking advantage of the internet and mobile banking services currently being offered by the local commercial banking system, according to a Scotiabank official.

Despite the aggressive promotion of these services only about eight per cent of retail customers take advantage of them, according to Scotia Marketing Manager Jennifer Cipriani.  Factors that account for the low level of use of these services are a lack of access to computers and internet services at the level of several households. According to Cipriani, even in cases where computer and internet access are available it is sometimes a matter of people being intimidated by and mistrusting of the technology.

“Many people have such a fear of the technology that it simply blocks their ability to use it effectively; and then, of course, there is the lack of faith in the technological services. Many customers have not yet learnt to trust e-banking services,” Cipriani said.

Scotia Marketing Manager Jennifer Cipriani

Cipriani told Stabroek Business that the bank had done exhaustive studies and tests to ensure that customer service in the system was not misplaced prior to providing the services but admits nonetheless that there remains a lack of confidence in many instances. “Scotia Bank has invested heavily in securing our online services. Since we’ve launched our service locally we have never had any cases of fraud or instances of hacking,” Cipriani reported. “I’m sure that other banks have made it equally safe as well.”

Scotia Bank currently offers internet banking services to its customers free of charge. The service allows customers access to all their banking information as well as to transfer funds between accounts, view and print bank statements. The bank’s customers will shortly be able to pay utility and other bills online.

“It’s actually safer viewing information like your bank statement online. We don’t have to mail it and risk it being opened during delivery or being delivered to a wrong address. Plus it is more cost effective for the bank. The less bank statements we mail the less money we spend and the more money we have to invest in making better services available,” Cipriani said.

Being able to quickly transfer funds from one account to another is one of the “handy” facilities offered by Scotia’s mobile banking service, she said. “It also gives the customer a quick and easy way to check their account balance at any time, anywhere they’re getting signal.”

While the number of Guyanese using i-banking and m-banking services averages somewhere in the region of 20,000 the rate at which these persons have signed up for the service is high. Since launching the service some banks have seen as much as a 300 per cent increase in the number of customers registering to use the service.  Following the initial spike in interest, however, the rate of user registration has dipped to between 5 and 12 per cent a month. Scotia Online was launched in October 2008.

Meanwhile, Republic Bank Guyana Limited Marketing Manager Michelle Johnson has been talking about the bank’s pursuit of expanded services to its customers.

“With the largest point-of-sale and ATM networks, Republic Bank leads the market in these areas for customer convenience for all holders of the Republic Visa One Card. Cardholders also have the option of staying abreast with their account activity and paying Utility Bills via Republic Tele Banker, which can be done via any touch tone phone whether landline or mobile,” Johnson said.

Republic Bank launched its i-banking suite last September and the bank’s promotion of the services emphasizes its security and easy access features. The bank says too that since the launch of its i-banking service there has been steady increase in customer sign-ups and usage of the bank’s online facilities by both retail and business customers. Since November last year Republic has reported a 243% growth in registrants. Between April and June this year a further 10 per cent in registrants was recorded and the bank says that it anticipates a further spike in the service with the further build-out of the broadband internet service.

Republic said its online banking facility is currently the only internet banking facility offering third party transfers and payments to eight utilities. In addition, customers can check transaction history on their accounts; transfer funds between listed Republic Bank (Guyana) Limited accounts; schedule payments and transfers; view and print statements on all Republic Bank (Guyana) Limited accounts, including credit and VTM cards held in their name (which would have been registered previously); make credit card payments from named Republic Bank accounts; place stop payments on cheques; check account and credit card balances; and reload VTM cards. Republic plans to add mobile banking to its current suite of services.

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