Online banking is often equated with instant, convenient and personalized service. At least, that is the impression adverts try to create. For many members of the public, it seems it is a double-edged sword as a survey recently showed 89.7 percent of respondents concerned about financial security when using online banking.
According to Zhu Ying, deputy director for Shanghai's Bureau of Public Security, 925 cases involving online banking fraud were registered in 2006, involving around 13.65 million yuan (about US$1.707 million).
A joint survey by China Youth Daily and www.qq.com polled 6,212 people, with 89.7 percent showing severe security concerns about online banking.
Huang Donghui, a senior IT engineer in Beijing told China.org.cn, "My major is Internet Technology. From this, I think the process is too risky since hackers can very easily get hold of your number and password. I'd much rather just use a bank."
Lu Yang, a student from Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, seemed to disagree in part, citing the public nature of the Internet.
"Online banking is still my second choice. As long as a bank provides reliable Internet services, I would consider using it. But I am still concerned about security."
However, 61.2 percent of those polled said their fears would not stop them using the Internet.
The scope of online banking in China has been growing rapidly of late with China Construction Bank reporting 43 million online customers in 2006, involving 30 trillion yuan (US$3.75 trillion) in funds.
Financial experts have highlighted the cost-effectiveness of online banking, since it costs far less in human resources than the physical presence of a bank clerk.
For customers, the rapidity of online banking explains why 42.7 percent of people chose online banking since over 70 percent complained of the waiting periods seen in banks.
According to an investigation from People's Daily, most customers wait 85 minutes on average before being served in Beijing branches of the big four state-owned banks, namely the China Construction Bank, the Agricultural Bank of China, the Bank of China and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC). The shortest registered time was 56 minutes and some poor souls had to wait 167 minutes.
"I usually cannot afford to wait such a long time," Internet editor Chen Weisong in Beijing told China.org.cn.
"Compared with such a long wait, I choose the online service. I think its security is OK and I have used it for several years. Banks often provide professional service systems to help minimize related crimes. Security is an issue but it doesn't really worry me."
Addressing the responsibility that banks bear in ensuring financial security, during the Parliament session in March this year, Deputy Zhao Pengcheng, president of the ICBC branch bank in Anhui said that if the customer had not committed any fault, then any losses due to technical problems should be fully compensated by the bank itself.
In the survey, participants asked the government to ensure that, in case of accidents, the banks should firstly have to prove whether they are at fault or not.
2006 stats emanating from the China Financial Certification Authority showed that due to security fears, around 61 percent of bank customers deserted the online service.
(china.org.cn April 10, 2007)