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In the days of virtualisation where working mothers and travelling sales-team prefer to use flexi-time and remote jobs profile; Internet is being adopted as a parallel medium of communication, transaction, and social networking. Internet banking is fast gaining momentum across the globe for its convenience and ease of conducting transactions at a speed and service levels never dreamt of, a decade ago.
In-spite of its multiple advantages, there is a need to step back and re-think on perceptions it carries with the masses. Is Internet Banking truly replacing the layers of branch banking in a big way? Is Internet Banking a definitive future of how world people will transact over net?
There are enough evidences of Internet Banking gaining considerable adoption in developed and to a lesser extent in developing countries. However ample evidence exist to suggest that Internet banking has been highly is accepted in only specific line of services and yet global bankers have to fight a fierce battle when Internet Banking will be a truly serious and parallel banking channel, complementing offline banking in a big way.
Developing and deploying Internet Banking is a extremely tough call for a modern day banker. At one side the cost and efforts of maintenance of e-banking infrastructure may not necessarily justify the benefits to every bank. And at the same time, intangible cost of not providing internet banking channel is also huge and may affect the opportunities loss for banks. Having said that, in today’s context, providing full-fledged Internet banking services is more of “when and not if” and the benefits are comparable to “chicken or egg” theory”.
In the first generation of Internet Banking, i.e. pre Y2K era, banks in the developed world provided basic facilities such as view balance, e-statements, check-book request, stop payment instructions, Electronic bill payment (EBP) etc. In Post Y2K era banks aggressively adopted various services such as Electronic Bill Presentment and payment (EBPP), customized reporting, account aggregation over multiple bank accounts, Investment banking, also portfolio / investment management, comprehensive money management, and trade finance etc. Y2k was also an era when few “Internet only” banks were established, and out of which these only Japanese have truly survived by now. Rest of the world is struggling to keep this “internet only” concept alive.
In the present regime of 2006 and beyond, the banks are concentrating on targeting the incremental service-level in online banking value-chain e.g. developing creative
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Research suggesting Internet Banking growth story
Ø As per Pew Internet & American Life Project in 2005, around 53 million Americans conduct majority of their banking online. This is approximately a quarter of all adults and this has risen over 47% since 2002.
Ø Forrester predicts this online number to reach 74 Million household in USA by 2011. The major factor promoting this number is Generation Y (those born after say 1980), as this segment of online banking is expected to grow by 136% in next 5 years timeframe. EBPP is expected to be a major driver for achieving this envisaged growth of e-banking volumes.
Ø Aite Group forecasts that by 2010, 13% of checking accounts will be opened online in the United States, up from 3% in 2006.
Ø Global e-commerce activity is currently estimated to be approx 10 Trillion US$. Increasingly, Internet banking will be used as a payment mode either using physical / virtual credit cards or though fund transfer / direct debits. Currently Physical card plays a major role in these global payments with or without using Internet Banking.
Security Threats over Internet – a need for introspection
In contrast to the growth stories, parallel research by organization such as Mintel in USA suggests a flip side of the story. e.g. study by Mintel indicates around two thirds of 40% younger consumers developed or matured market between 18-34 are turning way from online banking services, as they "don't trust transactions on the Internet". Therefore a huge introspection is needed from bankers for planning to counter the security threats in terms of hacking, Phishing, Pharming, keystroke logging, Trojan horses and several other modes of attacks on customer as well as banks. Several Banks across the globe had to either compensate customers of security scams or to accept the responsibilities of major overhaul of their Internet banking channel. In fact, The Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) has invited a major debate within banking industry whether to accept liability of banks to compensate customer and / or design higher customer responsibilities for Internet Banking Frauds.
A security threat is the single most detracting factors for consumers for aggressively using Internet Banking. However it is also seen that perception of threat is much higher in the minds of consumers in comparison to the actually threat itself. Banks have to aggressively work on cost-benefits to offer insurances or liability guarantee to the customers, which may help to garner huge untapped market.
Some Learning by banks
Ø Internet is one of most cost effective channel of conducting banking operations. It is estimated that Internet banking offers up to minimum of 60% (and much more at higher volumes) cost saving over normal offline banking.
Ø Bankers across the world have realized that customer using online banking have lesser attrition in comparison to other channel of banking and offer a relatively loyal customer to the bank.
Ø Per product usage per customer for Internet Banking channel is growing exponentially comparing offline banking.
Ø As per Gartner, on an average, companies save about 45 cents every time they send an account statement electronically instead of by paper mail. A bank that sends monthly account statements by paper mail to 5 million customers would spend $27 million more than if it sent electronic statements.
Ø Many banks have started waiving or reducing transaction fees on Internet banking accounts and are also offering higher deposit rates to attract this cost-effective channel of banking transaction.
Ø Some of the banks have initiated added incentives to customers by offering creative products e.g. combining loans as well as salary accounts ensuring superlative benefits to consumers, which enable considerable saving to customers. In fact some of these schemes can be availed only in online mode.
Ø Branch managers across the globe have realized that Internet Banking offers is not a hindrance or competition to their business growth, but it complements the operations as it actually reduces the excessive burden of servicing customers.
Ø Banks are offering customized reporting aligning with tools such as “Quicken 2007 or Microsoft money” for customers to analyze their income, expenditure items in various heads and this helps individual families to study / budget their spending from e-banking statements.
Ø “Offering image view for checks already processed” is a value-add facility to the consumer after modern day regulations such as “check 21” have established it’s footprint in USA. Banks in developed countries are also enabling customer to remote deposit checks using scanned images of checks.
Ø Banks are struggling to defy the threats of hacking, hacking, Phishing, Pharming, keystroke logging, Trojan horses etc The organization-wide extensive IT security policy involving establishing protection to IT and network infrastructure, anti-intrusion initiatives, multiple audit programs, tracking suspicious trends, disaster recovery and business continuity, regulatory compliance, customer education and awareness programs are being utilized to counter external threats and save consumers from any probable attacks. Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council's (FFIEC) in USA have mandated “two-factor authentication” to the banks, which warrants banks to provide additional security layer as against only “single factor” of login ID and Passwords. But in few cases such as “Man-in-middle” attacks have countered the recently mandated two-factor authentication as well. A major industry-wide drive is needed to counter the security threats in terms of actions from banks as wells customers.
Ø Banks are now providing liability guarantees for any unauthorized transaction over Internet, but a lot is desired as compelling restrictive clauses in the “small-print” not doing enough justice to customer’s apprehension towards security threats.