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Online banking set for further growth

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Although security remains a concern, there's just no stopping Internet and mobile banking as more bank customers than ever flock to sign up for digital channels. 

According to Christo Vrey, head of digital channels at Absa, says that 2007 has seen the bank sign up more users than ever on Internet banking.
In fact, as many as 20 000 new clients have signed up every month for Internet banking, with mobile banking averaging 25 000 new users per month – and peaking at 40 000 during some months.
Currently, about 30-million SMS are sent per month to the 2,6-million of Absa's customers who make use of digital channels.
Very adds that South Africa is well ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to digital channels, with 55% of Absa's transactions currently being conducted via these media.
"The volumes are far exceeding any of the other channels," says Very.
The bank launched its cell phone banking as a free service in 2005, and in 2008 will convert it to a paid-for service. Vrey explains that customers will pay for transactions and value-added services only, so many of the features that customers use will remain free.
Despite levying a charge for cell phone banking, Very says it still remains the most affordable banking channel, and South Africa's banks are committed to keeping it as affordable as possible.
Absa currently boasts 450 000 customers using its mobile banking service.
Going forward, Vrey says Absa will increase its focus on Internet and mobile banking – and will have increased capacity since it has now exited the ISP business.
"Mobile will just boom in the next year or so," says Vrey.
He adds that Absa has some exciting plans for 2008, but will only reveal them next year.
Security remains a concern, however, and Absa will continue to be aggressive in telling customers about security issues.
One of the biggest problems, says Vrey, is that users often forget that their virtual lives can overlap into the physical lives – and secure practices need to be observed whenever they are online.
"It's not just banking that needs to be secure. People can get your details from anywhere – Facebook or e-commerce sites."
Having said that Absa will, however, be looking at ways to harness Web 2.0 and social networking trends to enhance its banking services.