Jamaicans slowly warming up to digital banking

Friday, March 09, 2018

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DESPITE significant positive advances in digital banking in Jamaica over the past decade, a number of Jamaicans continue to shy away from the use of electronic payment instruments.

Statistics in the National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS), which were released in March 2017 by the Government agency, revealed that the use of electronic banking tools, including debit and credit cards, mobile and Internet-based, remained low among Jamaicans.

The data indicated that while 65 per cent of Jamaicans own a debit card, only 25 per cent used it in the past year.

The study also noted that about ten per cent of Jamaicans reported that they use the Internet to pay bills or make purchases in the past year, while just about three per cent of adults report using “mobile banking”.

Use of mobile money wallets are similarly reported by about one per cent of adults — although this is to be expected, given that those products are still at the pilot stage.

The NFIS pointed out that these trends do not differ markedly across the Caribbean, although mobile money products have achieved relative success in several countries, including Kenya, Paraguay and Haiti.

Ricardo Dystant, head of eBusiness at JN Bank, said a major part of the slow take-up in digital banking among Jamaicans is the issue of Internet penetration.

“The most recent statistics indicated that Jamaica has an Internet penetration rate of about 55 per cent. Therefore, this means that nearly half of the population is still without access to online services,” he explained.

Dystant further noted that another challenge, especially among the older generation, is a fear of the unknown, or scepticism, as it pertains to the safety of making transactions on the Internet.

“In light of the scepticism, one of the strategies we have employed at the JN Bank is to introduce computer classes at select locations, particularly in our rural communities. Our objective is to assist persons who have a natural fear or questions about the security of their funds when using the Internet to do banking,” he said.

“Classes were held in Catherine Hall in St James and Mandeville, Manchester. And our plan is to hold computer banking sessions in several other areas,” Dystant added.

The eBusiness manager said the bank has further responded by placing computers in the express areas of branches to provide members with access to the JN Live platform to do their online banking and check their emails.

“Recently we installed Wi-Fi connection in our main office at Half-Way-Tree, and we will be rolling that out to other locations over time,” he said.

Dystant stated that as technology advances, Jamaicans can expect to see much more digitisation in banking with increasing efficiency and convenience.

He pointed out that mobile connections are at an all time high of about 113 per cent, and that mobile banking is an area which is likely to grow significantly in the future.

“The fact is that whether we want to accept it or not, banking across the globe, and in Jamaica, will continue to make significant changes as technology progresses. We can't avoid it. Therefore, we need to prepare ourselves for it,” he stated.

Dystant projected that in the next few years Jamaicans can expect to see much more integration in the banking sector.

“Persons will eventually be able to move funds from their bank accounts into different payment systems, such as PayPal, for example. Basically, that means banking transactions will become more seamless for our customers.”

He said there will also be increased use of mobile banking applications (app).

“I also expect to see an app in Jamaica which you can use to take a photograph of your cheque and deposit it straight to your account. As local financial regulations adapt to the use of new technology, we'll see more of these innovations in the Jamaican banking system,” he affirmed.

The use of mobile phones to take photos of cheques for lodgement to accounts is used in the United States and other countries.

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