You won't have to speak to the bank manager
Queuing inside banks or standing nervously outside at the ATM is passť
ABSA is likely to be the first financial institution in South Africa to offer home banking facilities, like balances and statements, via the Internet. The bank's site is expected to go live within weeks.
The new Internet service will enable authorised customers to access their bank accounts from their homes or offices. Electronic cheque account and mortgage loan applications will also be available through this secure channel.
"By using the Internet as an electronic customer channel, we are providing clients with convenient access to branches and after-hours banking enquiries," says Attie van der Linde, Absa's assistant general manager card and electronic banking.
"Few people want to bank the traditional way. Queuing inside banks or standing nervously outside at the ATM is passť. People want other payment mechanisms - electronic currency, credit and debit instruments.
"The move is toward the 'cashless environment', but there are obstacles.
"With the commercial use of the Internet specifically, the biggest stumbling block is the system's inherent security risks. But we have come a long way and our home banking Internet service will be secure," says Van der Linde.
MasterCard and VISA have established a joint standard called SET (Secure Electronic Transaction) which aims to authenticate the parties involved in a transaction. Merchants who use the SET protocol will be certified as legitimate traders by the credit card associations' protocol.
In 1997, Absa and other members of credit card associations will offer SET-compliant services on the Internet. But SET is not limited to the Internet. It will also have an impact on other payment instruments such as credit, debit, funds transfer, business-to-business electronic commerce and micro payments.
Says Van der Linde: "Despite the current lack of security and infrastructure to ensure the complete safety of large-scale financial transactions on the Internet, hundreds of companies are moving to make on-line commerce a reality. Customers are demanding easier, faster and more convenient service.
"The trend to break with the traditional banking services has meant that the developers of Internet payment systems and the banking community at large will have to work together closely. The ultimate aim is to develop a system that is acceptable to all and for this reason we are working with international and local software suppliers."
But is on-line Internet banking worth the effort and investment?
"In financial institutions, this debate may lack hard-rand justification at this stage in the evolution of on-line banking, because the effect on customer acquisition and retention will be difficult to measure. The transition to the Internet is a strategic decision based largely on soft benefits, competitive pressures and speculation about future bank customers.
"Conducting business on the Internet is not a panacea for current business practices, nor is it a threat. It is a natural evolution of current business and technology trends. To be successful, however, the Internet must win the trust and acceptance of a wide range of companies and individuals," he says.