Just as a growing number of older people are exploring Facebook and other social media, many are also willing to consider electronic banking services – provided their misgivings about the security and trustworthiness of banking technologies are addressed.
An exploratory study on the readiness of senior citizens for electronic banking has produced illuminating results. Most of the 70 senior citizens surveyed for the study had limited experience of electronic banking and were only using basic banking technologies such as ATMs. Even so, many were eager to learn more about electronic banking services such as internet banking, cellphone banking and electronic transfers, and had favourable views on how they could benefit from some of these.
The respondents were from three old age homes in Gauteng and the North-West Province as, for reasons of privacy and confidentiality; customer lists were not available from banks. The study found that senior citizens who were the most accepting and technologically ready for electronic banking were those who already had access to these services (even if they were not using them).
“A number of the respondents, 69%, indicated that they feel technology gives them more control of their lives,” say the three researchers who conducted the survey,: Bongani Diako of the South African Post Office, Prof Sam Lubbe of the Faculty of Commerce and Administration at Mafikeng Campus, and Prof Rembrandt Klopper of the University of KwaZulu-Natal. “They indicated that the convenience associated with internet banking that allowed all-hour access to banking was something that they liked.”
An interesting finding was that 71% of the respondents said they found it easy to configure new technologies on their own and 70% said they kept up with new technologies in their areas of interest.
However, the majority of senior citizens surveyed were mistrustful about the security and reliability of banking technology. “Only 24% felt that it was safe to perform financial transactions via computers while the majority of respondents, 69%, indicated that computers were not safe,” the researchers say in an article published in a special edition of the journal Alternation.
An even lower percentage, 16%, was convinced about the safety of the technology used in banking applications. The low levels of trust towards technology-based banking services and applications manifested in the belief that technology always seems to fail at the worst possible times.
The respondents also felt left out of information on technology innovations, indicating a need for banks to make a greater effort in promoting their technology-based products and services to senior citizens. The three researchers point out that senior citizens are an important market for banks. Senior citizens now account for 7.,7% of the South African population and this is expected to increase to 10% by 2025. Moreover, many senior citizens have a regular (and therefore bankable) income in the form of pensions, while some also have investments. The researchers make several recommendations as to how banks should reach out to senior citizens.
One is that banks should take the unique traits of senior citizens into account in their marketing and promotion information on technology-based banking services and products. Senior citizens who have access to these services have the desire to learn more about them but do not have adequate access to information tailored to their unique traits.
Another recommendation is that the banks should emphasise the safety of their technology-based products to increase their appeal to senior citizens. Finally, the technology divisions of banks should continue to improve the quality of their technology platforms to prevent service failures. “This will result in improved trust by senior customers, thus winning their loyalty towards the services platforms and the banks themselves.”