Low speed and limited use delay development of Internet banking

Everyone’s a winner with Internet banking, as an advert might say. For customers who do their banking business on the Web, it means small or no charges at all. For banks, too, a transaction completed on the Internet and not in one of its branches costs up to 100 times less and it frees up staff for other tasks. What, then, are the main issues for those who use the Web to do their banking? What should be done so that Internet banking draws a numerous and loyal clientele, just as cash machines do? Two vital conditions necessary for developing this alternative banking network are a significant rise in the number of Internet users in Greece and faster access to it, neither of which depends on the banks, as Internet banking officials told Kathimerini. In both cases there still is a long way to go. The findings of a survey conducted by the Information Technology and Communication Enterprises Association (SEPE) are very revealing: Greece is last among EU member states in Internet use, as no more than 16.3 percent of households use it, while the EU average stands at 47 percent. The picture for professional use is similar, as Greece trails the list of EU countries in the use of Internet services. E-problems The situation is no better in access speed, as «e-queues» are a common phenomenon. As Viviane Reding, European commissioner for information society, said in response to a question by Greek MEP Costas Hadzidakis, there is «slow adaptation to broadband services in Greece, which in July 2004 corresponded to just 0.24 percent of the country’s population, when the EU15 average approached 7.72 percent.» Therefore the majority of customers who use the Internet for their transactions do not have fast connections and have to endure long waits at «e-counters,» which hampers the massive development of this alternative network. What is more, access to some banks’ websites requires the use of programs that must be downloaded from the Internet. This may seem easy for someone familiar with cyberspace, but appears difficult to the average customer who is on his first steps and may well be discouraged by that. The impact of these issues is reflected in a survey made across Europe by Accenture. On average, 12 percent of European bank customers search for financial products through the Internet, yet only one in every four of those goes on to purchase products. Greece is last in this chart, too, as only 1 percent of bank customers buy products via the Internet. Nevertheless, bankers are optimistic and claim that Greek banks have invested significant amounts of money in making possible the completion of a large number of transactions through the Web with the greatest security possible, while some banks have even proceeded to the creation of separate electronic banks. A bank official told Kathimerini that «for Internet banking’s use to jump, dynamic promotion among the wider public is needed and particularly at the younger ages. The Internet must also meet those needs requiring immediate service, which means specialized support teams. However, there are indications that the Internet will soon be a considerable alternative sales network in the broader banking system. The river always goes forward,» the official concluded.

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