ECONOMY

Europeans, Greeks snub Net banking

Internet banking has failed to take off in Greece and other European countries as initially expected despite heavy investments resulting in higher cost transactions, according to a recent survey. The results of a European-wide study held by international consultants Accenture show that an average of 12 percent of European bank customers search for financial products on the Internet but only one quarter of these people will buy a product electronically. Low usage rates are confirmed even in Scandinavian countries, where high-tech items play a role in everyday life. In Norway only 7 percent of customers will buy a financial product over the Net while the figure in Sweden is even lower, at 5 percent. Greece ranks at the bottom of the list with only 1 percent of bank clients shopping online. The survey also found that 69 percent of bank clients have used an ATM machine at least once, while 59 percent prefer to conduct transactions in a branch and 9 percent have turned to phone banking. At the end of 2004, it is estimated that 50 million European customers will have conducted a transaction on the Internet, a number which represents an annual growth rate of 24 percent over the last five years. Given the low usage rates, the cost of transactions on the Net is higher than initial estimates. This comes in contrast to expectations that the cost of a transaction would turn out to be about 100 times cheaper than the cost of it being executed in a bank branch.