The ‘digital fear’

Banks need to help customers to overcome it

Srinagar, Publish Date: Nov 20 2018 11:58PM | Updated Date: Nov 20 2018 11:58PM
The ‘digital fear’Representational pic

Today I have a story of fear to share. I know the story is very ordinary in the context of today’s digital technology revolution. But it will remind you about your first brush with a machine, I mean automated teller machine (ATM), when you used your ATM card to withdraw cash from it with expression of fear of losing your money. I too was very fearful when I first time, some two decades back, punched my ATM card in the machine. In fact, for quite some time, I was reluctantly availing ATM services. But over a period of time I defeated my fear and ATM withdrawals became a norm of daily life.

Now, after more than two decades of my first cash withdrawal at an ATM, technology has changed the complexion of banking services as well as the way banking transactions are taking place. Earlier it was a plastic card which revolutionized cash withdrawal, anywhere and anytime at an ATM location, now it's the time when digital financial transactions in cashless mode are fast becoming an inevitable norm. I think the most amazing digital product with banks is the mobile banking application (App) which facilitates an accountholder to conduct transactions through his smart phone. Even as more and more people are boarding the wagon where cash is transacted in virtual form, the element of risk in such transactions has infused ‘digital’ fear among the general public.

Even as I too was among the forerunners to download the App, I was once again fearful to use it for conducting transactions. I was closely observing some of my fraternity members using the App at ease, but I simply used to ignore it and always preferred e-banking mode to conduct transactions in my account till I got stuck up awkwardly in a financial transaction. Actually, I fell short of some bucks cash to square a bill amount at a store. The merchant was not having point of sale (PoS) facility and there was also no nearby ATM facility in the vicinity.

While gauging my helplessness, the merchant asked me if I had mobile App option in my cell phone. He gave me the account number and I had no option but to use the App to transfer money instantly from my account to his account through the smartphone. Even as I fearfully used the App, this small mobile payment transaction helped me to defeat this ‘digital’ fear. Frankly speaking, I have never felt so comfortable while doing a financial transaction as I experienced it with this mobile App. I think, so far, this is the most amazing innovation in the stream of a digital banking transactions. Precisely, mobile banking is one of the wonders of technology.

In our state, mobile banking is at a nascent stage, despite the fact that banks of all sizes continue to invest in mobile technology.  Its growth, though not estimated so far through any proper research, doesn’t seem in line with the huge potential when compared with the growing use of smart phones in the state. The banks operating here have not proved proactive in running aggressive educational programs to address customers’ ‘digital fears’. There is a negligible percentage of bank customers with smart phones who take the route of mobile banking technology to execute their financial transactions digitally.

Talk to any bank customer who is not inclined to use mobile banking mode to make transactions in his account, you would come across several drawbacks infusing fear among them. Some have fear of loss of privacy as identity thefts have been common and many accountholders lost (and are losing) their hard earned money to such frauds.

For many, mobile banking seems too complicated. They prefer driving to a branch or an ATM location to conduct transactions than using a mobile banking App. They are not comfortable with PINs and passwords which require them to double authenticate their identity before being allowed to conduct a digital transaction.

So, banks are loaded with responsibility to help customer to conquer their ‘digital fear’ with  the same commitment to education that banks have given to acquiring advanced technology. They have to assure customers that mobile banking can be simple and easy to handle. Conducting some quick sessions and literally displaying operations of a mobile banking App at branches for visiting customers is not a bad idea.

In fact, running aggressive educational programs on mobile banking is the only way to help the people to dispel ‘digital fear’.

(The views are of the author and not that of the institution he works for)

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