By the close of 2015, available statistics shows that Ghana had 35,283,957 telephone subscribers, which represented a teledensity of 129.63 per cent. Mobile data subscribers, as of December 2015 stood at 18,031,188, representing 65.74 per cent, and according to Africa 2017 population and Internet users statistics from internetworldstats.com, Ghana has 7,958,675 Internet users representing 27.8 per cent of the population as at March 17, 2017, however Internet banking hasn’t caught on yet in the country.
That is notwithstanding the fact that not a single day passes by without adverts from the banks in Ghana announcing to customers and prospective customers about migration onto an Internet banking solution.
Internet and technology are currently driving virtually every industry around the globe and the banking industry in Ghana is cashing in on the many opportunities these offer – one of such opportunities is Internet banking solution.
Alex Nyingi, the Microsoft Philanthropy Manager for sub-Saharan Africa was not far from right when he acknowledged that, “we are in the fourth industrial revolution and what is physical and digital is getting blurry. Technology has become a part and parcel of our lives.”
Currently most banks in Ghana have Internet banking solutions but as to whether customers are making good use of it or even know the advantages that it has to offer is another mystery yet to be unraveled.
There are about 34 licensed banks in Ghana as at December 2016 according to the latest report by the Bank of Ghana published on January 18, 2017.
Before we find out all about how the phenomenon is catching up, lets race through these questions:
Are the banks getting into Internet banking because it’s the thing now? Do customers know how beneficial it is to do Internet banking? Are customers aware of the security measures involved? How do banks secure customer’s bank account from hackers?
Is the Internet banking “noise” just a façade or are customers moving along with the banks through this new digital revolution?
But first, what is an Internet Banking Solution?
SIC Life Savings and Loans, a subsidiary of SIC Life company says an Internet banking solution is a “customer-centric architecture that enables financial institutions to launch one-stop financial services to its customers using the Internet as a platform. Internet banking solutions are web-based solutions that are integrated into the bank’s core banking software and customized to interact with the banking software and customer database to offer suitable e-banking products and services to its customers.
Kwame Banibensu who works with the Internet Banking solution department of Barclays Ghana defines it simply as giving access to customers to their bank accounts and other information through the Internet. He explains that a web page is designed to allow customers to access their bank accounts and carry out transactions.
He said most of the time, the bank tries to put as much functionalities into the solution to assist customers to do basic banking transactions like to check account balance, recent bank transactions and transfers to other accounts within the bank.
Barclays Bank is one of the few banks in Ghana which started providing Internet banking solutions in 2011.
Cyril Nai, Communications Manager at Barclays Ghana also noted that the bank started an Internet banking solution because there was a high demand for it at that time.
“The demand to introduce solutions that made life easier for customers were high,” he told ghanabusinessnews.com, in an interview.
“As a business you need to look at what will make life comfortable for your customers and Internet banking came in as one of those solutions. Secondly, the technology was available to support an Internet banking solution,” he added.
Although Banibensu refused to mention figures, he admitted that, “more customers are signing up for the Internet banking solution.”
Advantages of Internet Banking
Both top financial institutions believe that the following are the advantages of an Internet banking solution to customers:
Convenience – Customers can initiate transactions at any place at any time provided they have access to Internet. In a city like Accra with lots of traffic, customers are able to avoid being in heavy traffic to undertake business dealings as well as avoid long queues in the banking hall.
Customers are able to monitor activities on their accounts and thus increase their confidence in the banking system.
Internet banking also helps multiple account holders, especially traders, in the management of their funds. Customers are able to move funds from one account to another to avoid insufficient funds in one account while there are idle funds in other accounts. This can save them the cost of returned cheques charges and debit interest on overdrawn accounts.
On a lighter note, Internet banking eliminates the geographical boundaries that exist with traditional bank service delivery and as a result, a customer in other geographical areas can do business with a bank without necessarily being at the location of the bank.
In brief, Internet banking solutions enable customers to bank conveniently and easily while saving time and money.
Ghana’s Internet banking prospects
SIC Life S&L believes that Internet banking in Ghana has a lot of prospects due to developments in Internet technology – Internet technology is increasing across the globe and Ghana is not left behind coupled with the fact that Ghana currently has 4G network providers.
Also, the cost of Internet is becoming relatively cheaper each day as competition among service providers intensifies. As a result, it will be easy and cheaper for the banking public to have access to Internet all day.
In the very near future, the younger population in school is going to be the income earner. These people are the “social media and Internet babies”. They live their lives on the Internet and will like to do everything including banking online.
We reached out to Standard Chartered Bank Ghana, Ecobank and UniBank while we were looking into this subject, but they failed to respond to our letters and follow up calls.
When it comes to Internet related activities like Internet banking which involves money, security measures are as relevant as the platform itself.
Barclays Ghana says Internet banking platforms usually have security measures embedded in them to prevent fraud and unlawful access to people’s bank details.
The platform, according to the bank has a unique security feature and a onetime password which is needed anytime a customer wants to access their account.
“After logging in with an original password and username, the system will generate another password which will be sent directly to the customer’s phone. This gives the customers the topmost security that even if someone has access to their passwords and usernames, the person would need to have the customer’s phone or retrieve the one time pass word to be able to access the account and that alone is a good security feature to prevent hacking and fraud, the Bank said.
Bank customers and what they think of Internet banking
In an interview with ghanabusinessnews.com, Mr Asamoah Addo, an electrical engineer says although he has seven bank accounts with different banks, an Internet banking solution is not something he would consider due to how hackers are able to siphon money from the system.
Francis Quasie a web developer, who has an account with Guaranty Trust Bank in Accra says he is able to check his balance and pay for items online without physically visiting the bank which saves him a lot of time.
“I do a lot of online buying and so it has been very helpful. I can check my account statement, balance and previous transaction details.”
Quasie is not bothered about hacking because he believes his bank has security measures to prevent such occurrences.
Leslie Lamptey a student tells ghanabusinessnews.com, that he did not have much knowledge about Internet banking, “if I had more information about it I would sign up because I have friends who use Internet banking.”
Terik Mandison, who has an account with Barclays Bank says he was using the Internet banking service but stopped about a year ago because he is limited with the things he can do.
“Checking only account status and transactions is not enough; I need to be able to send money from my mobile money account to my bank account.”
“I use two bank accounts but I do not use an Internet banking service because I do not have much knowledge about it and also the charges for the service may be high as I bank with one of the expensive banks in Ghana,” Alberta Ntow, a caterer tells ghanabusinessnews.com.
“Even with the non-transactional inter-banking service like SMS alert, I am charged GH¢2.30 a month how much more an Internet banking service?,” she queried.
“I have two bank accounts and one account with a savings and loans institution but I don’t do Internet banking,” Comfort Sapaku, a nurse also says. “I simply don’t know much about it,” she adds.
A bank staff who only gave her name as Naa Aku and has two bank accounts apart from the bank she works with noted that “I do not see the need to use an e-banking service since I receive alert on my phone on every transaction in my account. I think it will be more helpful for people who often transfer money into foreign accounts.”
By Pamela Ofori-Boateng
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