I like to write about experiences from the time I was in the US to what I’m experiencing now in Ghana.
Today, I want to talk about the use of technology in banking as well as Ghana wanting to be a cashless society.
In the US, I was using Bank of America for my banking needs. The first time I signed up, it was really seamless. I gave the agent my personal info, she signed me up for online banking and we were done. In about two weeks, I got my debit card in the mail.
The use of physical cash gradually reduced as I got used to buying everything with the swipe of my debit card. Eventually, Bank Of America got ATMs which were capable of accepting both cash and cheques. I pretty much stopped going to the banking hall altogether.
It was a good experience.
Then I came back to Ghana. I wasn’t expecting the same experience as Bank of America but I was expecting something above par.
To be frank, it’s not been too good. First of, the first bank I signed with (Let’s call it Bank X) were very bad. I signed up for internet banking and a standard ATM card.
It was about three months before I got a “Welcome To Bank X” email but never got information for signing up to my online account or even when I was going to get my ATM card. Worse off, the bank was charging my account every month.
It didn’t take long before I cut ties to that bank.
Then I signed up for another bank. That experience was a little better. Signed up for an online account, and got a ATM and Visa Card soon afterwards.
I actually got my online banking details in my email in less than a week. Then the bad experiences started happening. First off, trying to create a simple password to login into my account was a nightmare. The password requirements were so strict that I forgot what password I had used because I was trying for the 10th time.
Unfortunately, there was no type of “Forgot Password” option. So I emailed tech support.
Nothing. No response.
After a couple of weeks, I went to the branch and told them my problem. Finally! They reset my password and this time I made sure to keep note of the password I used when I signed up. (This time, it took me about five tries to get the password right)
But there was nothing to celebrate because the user interface for the online banking was so atrocious, I just stopped logging in because the experience was so bad.
But fear not, because I have a new bank that I signed up with and that experience has so far been great. Until something goes wrong…..
Cashless Society And Use of Technology
I mentioned before that I stopped using cash when I was with Bank Of America. There was no need. Virtually all stores I went into had a POS terminal which was used to swipe my debit card to buy stuff. I also used my card to shop online from Amazon.
I also basically stopped going to the banking hall. If I needed to cash a cheque, I would just go to the ATM machine, slide in the cheque, get confirmation of the amount and it would be credited to my account. If I need to send someone money, I would do it online from my online banking account. I could send money to a friend who used another bank just by typing in their account and routing number (Of course, there was a fee, but it was small).
Things are different in Ghana. For almost all services, you have to visit the banking hall. Most of the time, these banking halls can get PACKED. Depositing a cheque that would take about 5 minutes becomes a 30 minute ordeal. It’s stressful.
So the question is: Why are banks so slow in applying technology to make the lives of their customers less stressful?
In today’s world, a lot of things get done online, especially on mobile. So why aren’t banks adopting mobile technology for their services? I hear some do but I haven’t heard great things about it. I don’t think banks do a lot in terms of advertising their online services. It seems that the online component of banking is an afterthought. I don’t know why I can’t go to my online banking account and transfer money to someone I know. The fact that I have to drive to a nearby banking hall and fill out some paperwork just to send 400Ghc to someone is getting annoying.
The same applies to depositing cheques. Some banks are actually giving their customers options to take a picture of their cheques for deposit. At least there’s some innovation going on there.
Retail stores aren’t embracing technology when it comes to payment of stuff as well. Yeah, I know there are stores which have “VISA Accepted Here” but I’m tired of going in, trying to pay with my card and being told they don’t accept that OR they’re machines are not working.
I think I have paid for stuff TWICE with my Visa Card.
So are we closer to a cashless society? It’s inconclusive right now. I still hear stories of people who get paid with cheques at the end of the month even though direct deposit is available for the employer. People still pay for most store items with cash even though they have VISA cards in their wallets.
So why aren’t people advocating for more cashless options? Why are people more willing to pull out cash rather than their cards? Is it bad experience from previous encounters? Do they not trust debit cards?
That sounds like an interesting study for someone to undertake.