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Online banking fails to shine

2010-09-14 10:10

Online banking fails to shine

A man shows his bank cards in Hubei province. The "super e-banking system" allows customers to make real-time interbank transfers and balance inquiries. Liu Junfeng / for China Daily

BEIJING - Li Xin, a 35-year-old white-collar worker in Beijing likes the idea of accessing and managing multiple bank accounts through a single website. But he is not sure about opening a new account due to the higher bank charges.

The central bank recently launched its second-generation online banking services, dubbed "the super e-banking system" which allows customers to make real-time interbank transfers and balance inquiries.

The new system was designed to make the country's online banking system more convenient and friendly by providing a "one-stop shop" for customers with all online banking systems of commercial banks integrated into a single website.

But so far the new system has only received lukewarm response from customers like Li who are concerned about higher bank fees.

"The new system is definitely going to make online banking much easier for me. But if it is too costly, I will not open such an account," Li said.

The new online interbank payment system will save customers the trouble of logging on to different bank websites to manage their accounts.

But the lack of uniform charges for such services among commercial banks has raised concerns among customers.

The fees for the new service have not been finalized as interbank transfers in China are being charged differently by different commercial banks.

Banks that adopted the new online clearing system are now waiting for further instructions from the central bank.

A recent online survey by web portal showed that 96 percent of the people polled worried that the new system would lead to higher bank fees.

But industry experts said the fees would gradually decline, as the new system will significantly improve banks' efficiency and lower transaction costs.

"The fees would be greatly reduced in the long run because the new system will definitely increase banks' efficiency," said Guo Tianyong, director of the Research Center of the Chinese Banking Industry of the Central University of Finance and Economics.

As many as 27 commercial banks including the four State-owned banks and nine joint-equity commercial banks have adopted the new system.

Beijing, Tianjin, Guangzhou and Shenzhen were selected as the first batch of pilot cities and the new system will be gradually expanded to more cities.

Analysts said the new system may help smaller commercial banks gain a competitive edge over their larger rivals.

Banking software and information security companies are also expected to benefit from the new system. Westone Information Industry Inc, a Sichuan-based manufacturer of information security equipment is expecting higher revenues as more and more banks start using the new system.


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