‘Facebook and online shopping? Yes! But please no internet banking’

With so many Nigerians happily surfing the net, why have local banks not converted more of these sophisticated web users into internet banking customers?

That question is posed in the 2014 Nigeria Banking Industry Customer Satisfaction Survey, which may give bankers in many developing markets reason to reflect.

As KPMG in Nigeria observed in its eighth annual report on banking trends, Nigerians are fast-adopters of web-enabled gadgets. They are also increasingly sophisticated banking customers, with rising expectations for speedy, efficient service and technology.

Ironically, however, some Nigerians happily text, chat and shop on smartphones while they stand in long queues to use ATMs and branches. This picture is reinforced by survey data that show eight-in-ten Nigerian banking customers aged under 30 never use internet banking. Equally surprising, while 70% of Nigerians use social media at least weekly for personal purposes, 71% never interact with their bank by social media.

So why would such tech-savvy customers not make the leap to online banking? A quote from a typical Nigerian bank client sheds some light, “My friends tell me it’s not easy to use so I’ve never really bothered, besides there’s too much hassle to sign up.”

Many Nigerians seem frustrated by the complexity of navigation and visual design of many local internet banking portals. According to the KPMG in Nigeria survey, only 38% reported strong satisfaction with the ease of use of available web sites.

Such insights suggest that the banks could increase online banking popularity by improving the user experience. They could simplify the number of steps to complete a transaction or add more robust capabilities that respond to Nigerians’ technology sophistication. The banks might also encourage their own employees to use online banking, so they become channel ambassadors.

Attracting non-resident and corporate clients

By upgrading their web banking channels, the banks could increase usage by both domestic customers and among Nigeria’s large non-resident population who live abroad and sent US$21bn in personal remittances to Nigeria in 2013. According to the KPMG in Nigeria online survey, 44% of non-resident Nigerians said that availability of internet banking was the most important factor in choosing a banking relationship. Hailing from 12 countries, 23% of those non-resident respondents said ease of use of the internet banking platform was most important.

Better web banking tools could also distinguish banks among prospective corporate and commercial customers. Only 50% of corporate customers said they were satisfied with available online banking options. Corporate clients demonstrated a distrust for current online banking security and a desire for customised financial reporting and access to more reliable, real-time financial data.

Despite customer reservations, the web channel is taking root in Nigeria, with 18% of survey respondents using online banking in 2014, up from 13% in 2013. With that in mind, internet banking could be a lucrative, brand booster for any bank that can iron out the kinks and educate customers about the convenience of banking online.

Bode Abifarin is a senior manager at KPMG in Nigeria.