I don’t bank online. And until recently, I didn’t know a lot of people whodid. But lately, people who bank online are everywhere and they’re notafraid to admit it.
Not only that, they are, to a person, happy customers.
When someone gives you, completely unsolicited, a glowingreview of online banking, you know those bankers must be doing something right.
And that’s good news for an industry that everyone thought would have taken off long before now.
Recently, I heard two testimonials about Web banking in as many days. Notexactly a landslide, it’s true, but they came from people in completely different walks of life and regions of the country.
For a moment during each conversation, I felt each was trying to convert me. Like they could nudge me toward the light and I would be saved.
“I haven’t bought stamps in six months,” one person told me.
I didn’t tell him that I kind of like stamps, especially now that you don’t have to lickthem any more.
Into the Unknown
The other person had a more practical approach: “Paper bills get lost in my apartment.”
I believed these testimonials because they came with reservations.
“The first time you do it,” one person said, “you don’t know if it (the payment) got there. You half expect a guy to show up at your door with a wrench and shut offyour gas service.”
But of course, that doesn’t happen. Or at least my friends didn’t tell me aboutthose kinds of incidents.
Bricks of Gold
Both of my Web banking friends also use brick-and-mortar banks that havebuilt up significant online services. In other words, they are shunningpure-play Internet banks, just like almost everyone else in every other industry.
What’s interesting is that neither person is particularly adventurous whenit comes to technology. Neither owns a PDA. Neither uses a cell phone to surf the Web. But they broke through the worry barrier on onlinebanking, and they seem to be glad they did.
This, of course, is pleasant to hear for online banking, which has been waiting for its time to come for a long while now. As the old saying goes, word of mouth is the best form of advertising there is.
One by Each
It’s not the fastest, however. And people seem to be adopting Web banking one at a time, not in big bunches. If Web-only banks needed more bad news, there it is: Banks that can hold on the longest will emerge victorious.
If you don’t have a stream of customers from your brick-and-mortar and ATM machines keeping you in the green in the short term, you might not be around long enough to collect a sizeable share of the online customer base.
By now, we’re used to seeing pure plays get waylaid by the bullies from the real world. But in the banking world, how surprising a development is that, really?
If Web banks had another two or three years of deep-pocketed investors andno worries about profits, maybe they could have wooed enough customers tomake their existence more than a blip on the radar screen.
But when you’re talking about taking someone’s money, holding on tosomeone’s money, doling it out when they say to, you’re talking about anawesome responsibility. It’s no surprise that people weren’t willing tohand that responsibility over to a faceless, nameless person on the otherend of an Internet connection.
Before long, Web-only banks will be extinct, another symbol of what the Netwas supposed to be capable of eliminated.
Brick-and-click Web banking will continue to pick up steam, however, one customer at a time. And that’s not a bad consolation prize.
Note: The opinions expressed by our columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the E-Commerce Times or its management.