Juan Carlos Escotet, President, Venezuelan Banking Association
The president of the organization thinks that widespread use of e-media has raised the levels of bank usage and has pointed out that mobile banking will be further developed in the short term. The domestic financial system stacks its cards in favor of non-office, non-paper banks
Making a transfer or paying for a service in just a few minutes are some of the advantages provided by virtual banking. While customers frequently go to the offices, e-channels are more and more used. Hence, the financial system bets on future non-paper, non-office banks.
Juan Carlos Escotet, the president of the Venezuelan Banking Association (ABV), is positive that Venezuelan banks are avant-garde, as shown by the utilization of non-standard media. "The system has been under pressure because of users' demands, and young people have made us work on virtual banking."
He thinks that the widespread use of mobile phones and increasing Internet penetration have played a key role to bolster e-services. The high-ranking officer reported on 10 million Internet users in Venezuela. "These numbers show that much progress can be made through e-media."
Approaching the underprivileged is among the banks' challenges. Not everybody is in contact with the financial system, because income is not enough to save; let alone ready access to services. Escotet said that e-channels have helped enlarge the number of bank users, mostly from the socioeconomic lower class. "Streamlining of the forms of payment allows for inclusion."
Based on data managed by banks, near 65 percent of financial deals are made via Internet. Despite such growth, financial institutions should dodge some hurdles, such as distrust and fraud.
Trust is a must in electronic operations. Has security for transactions been reinforced?
The issue of trust relies on several actors. Venezuela has a Law against Information Technology related Offenses which requires in-depth regulations. Also, a reasonable conduct is requisite. People usually share everything and the reality is complex. Banks are endeavoring to reinforce security for a successful penetration; obstacles are being overcome with encrypted security items. There is, in addition, the chip technology, which prompt us to change plastics and overhaul the platform. However, in this process, not only banks play a role, but also supermarkets and shops.
Have banks managed to curb fraud?
Fraud has diminished. Based on the sector data, in 2010 it lowered 20 percent. With the security measures that have been implemented, there are fewer offenses, and the incorporation of chips into cards will increase confidence. Most claims of fraud are recorded with checks. Therefore, banks have had to further protect this instrument.
Which steps are being taken to increase confidence in e-media, particularly among the elderly, the most frequent users of bank branches?
Barriers have tumbled down in sectors under 50 years old. The elderly are more reluctant, yet changes are being made. We are working on the use of debit cards for pensioners of the Venezuelan Social Security Institute.
While e-channels have grown, a substantial volume of cashier operations is still appreciated.
As sectors not attached to banks have been added, e-transactions have increased. Turnout at the cashier's does not diminish because liquidity grows 30 percent every year. While operations have been redirected, there are still standard transactions.
The ABV president underlined that a review of the tariffs roll of the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV) found that e-operations are more expensive that cashier operations. To his mind, increasing modernization should be borne in mind in tariffs approval criteria.
"While progress has been made as to changes in the forms of payment, payment by direct debit should be boosted; we expect the Executive Office, which manages production factors and is an employer, to pay by electronic means; expect it, by means of regulations, to urge users to use plastic and other channels."
You said that virtual banking has given more access to the socioeconomic lower class. What are the next steps to continue enlarging the number of bank users?
We must thank for technological induction, the bringing of cell phones to the masses. SMS have been a way to query into balances, check payments and pay for the telephone service. Hence, we can delve into the massive use together with community terminals.
Are you betting on widespread use by means of mobile banks?
Yes, we are betting on mobile banks for reasons of cost and modernization. The use of smart phones paves the way. Banks will be embarked on the development of mobile payment. There can be no doubt that social networks are interesting and force us to develop new channels. These are the steps to heighten the use of banks. The underprivileged will be the most benefitted from these low-cost channels.
Translated by Adrián Valera
That political protest in Venezuela has lost momentum seems pretty obvious: people are no longer building barricades to block off streets near Plaza Francia in Altamira (eastern Caracas), an anti-government stronghold; no new images have been shown of brave and dashing protesters with bandanna-covered faces clashing with the National Guard in San Cristóbal, in the western state of Táchira; and those who dreamed of a horde of "Gochos" (Tachirans) descending in an avalanche to stir up revolt in Caracas have been left with no option but to wake up to reality.