Canadians among world leaders in online banking

A recent study by the Angus Reid Group shows that while Canadians have embraced online banking, they are decidedly cooler towards online stock trading and other Web-based investment services.

According to the global survey about online banking and trading, one in five Canadian Internet users has tried online banking, while one in three plans to do so soon. The study also found that the majority of Canadians who tried online banking would do it again.

The findings were drawn from The Face of the Web, an extensive survey based on interviews with 28,374 Internet users in 30 countries and general consumers in 34 countries. The study was conducted from November 1999 until January 2000.

The three-month study – the largest worldwide study of Internet use ever conducted – found that approximately 31 per cent of Canadian Internet users were “very likely” to bank online sometime within the next 12 months. That ranks eighth out of 30 countries, just behind urban Brazil and Belgium (34 per cent), and tied with Australia.

The United States ranked a somewhat surprising 14 th at 21 per cent, slightly ahead of Turkey (20 per cent) and just behind Spain (24 per cent). Urban South Africa and Germany were the worldwide leaders in online banking at 46 and 42 per cent respectively. The least enthusiastic online bankers were Internet users in Egypt and Russia, with two per cent each.

Why is online banking gaining in popularity?

“One word sums it up, and that’s convenience,” said Gus Schattenberg, vice-president of the Angus Reid Group in Vancouver. “It’s really downright addictive once people get started, with just the convenience of being able to transact these types of affairs online.

“That carries across most of the areas of Internet commerce that we surveyed,” he added.

Schattenbeg said that he’s not surprised by Canada’s prominence in the realm of online banking.

“Canada has really been on the leading edge of Internet diffusion,” he said. “I think it was surprising that the US was a bit farther down in the pack, because the Americans have been the first ones out of the gate on a lot of these Internet applications.”

TD Canada Trust currently has more than 900,000 people registered for online banking, and according to senior vice-president Chuck Hounsell, expects to see a more than 75 per cent increase in the number of Internet bill payments this year.

“Electronic banking is tremendously popular with our customers,” said Hounsell in a recent press release. “Paying bills by telephone remains popular with customers, but we are seeing tremendous growth in online bill payments.”

Those sentiments are echoed by the Royal Bank, which expects to register its one-millionth online banker soon.

While Canadians may be fond of online banking, the Angus Reid study found that they are decidedly less enthusiastic when it comes to online trading.

Only about one in 10 Canadian Internet users said they were “very likely” to trade or make other investments online in the near future, the survey found. The figure was similar among Internet users in the United States.

Online trading was most popular in South Korea (18 per cent), Singapore (14 per cent) and Germany (14 per cent).

A follow-up survey to The Face of the Web will be launched in roughly six months, enabling researchers to determine what, if any, trends are emerging. He says that researchers are only just beginning to accumulate data pertaining to online banking and e-commerce.

“The whole area has really just got started over the last few years,” he said. “The research community is pretty much beginning from ground zero – although the data is beginning to accumulate very rapidly.”