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French Version

Internet Banking in Jordan: Just about enough, for now

Once the bank I deal with announced that it's Internet banking was available, I decided to give it a try. I contacted a friend at the main branch, in the Internet banking division, who told me to pass by.

JORDAN (Star) - Internet banking is a bit of a buzzword nowadays among Jordan's banks, with almost all of them claiming to have such initiatives under development or already up-and-running in some form or another.

Once the bank I deal with announced that it's Internet banking was available, I decided to give it a try. I contacted a friend at the main branch, in the Internet banking division, who told me to pass by.

Upon visiting him he explained that all I would be able to do, for now, is to check my balance, look at recent transactions, order a check-book and leave some notes for my local branch to contact me whenever I need them.

As for online withdrawal, or movement of funds among accounts, that was not yet possible. Also it was still not possible to use online banking to pay telephone or electricity bills, although it's a simple task of ordering the banks to withdraw those sums from the account.

The reason being, according to my friend, that "the bank is conservative about these issues and would like to take it slowly before launching these and other services." So, relatively satisfied with what's on offer now, I filled out a form, long and detailed, then paid five Dinars, the annual fee.

I was told it needed some time before they would give me my user name and password, after which my online account would be activated.

So, I waited. A couple of days later the password was ready. They said I should pick it up from my local branch. When I did, I rushed back to the office to enjoy the wonders of online banking.

However, my account had not been activated yet, so I called my local branch who told me it would take around two to three hours. Fair enough, I thought, it all seemed to be going well.

I logged in; it looked nice, seemed easy to use but was painfully slow. This was not due to the speed of my connection. It seems the 'interface' between the web and the bank's records takes loads of time to perform the task you have requested.

Bank managers say it's because of the security software in place that takes it's time and 'drags-on' through the many, many procedures and clearances required by the system before you can actually get a piece of information on your screen. Surely, in the future, there will be faster ways to get through the system that would make online banking a faster experience. Why can't it be as fast as ATM services, you may wonder? Especially considering that the concept is quite similar. After all, both are software interfaces that act as a gateway to the bank's records.

The reason for the difference is, once again, due to security checks. Banks are not too worried about anyone 'hacking' into the system from the ATM machine, so things are generally faster. However, with Internet banking, the main and prime concern is to keep the hackers out and therefore users will feel the service is slow, as it goes through too many 'checks' and generally makes you wonder if the idea was to provide a faster banking alternative at all!

Still, online banking services will improve; it's just a matter of time. But the banks have to make more 'humble' claims about their Internet banking services. None of the Jordanian banks yet have what is considered true Internet banking, by international standards.

Still, they say there's more to come. When, though, is the question.

Zeid Nasser
The Star

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