Cypriots’ increased use of internet banking during the pandemic appears to be here to stay, particularly because Cyprus banks are gearing up their online banking offers.
Local banks have been offering online banking services for years, but it was not until the novel coronavirus outbreak that people realised how convenient and time efficient that alternative is.
Along with increased interest, banks have been under pressure from international competition. “Banks also need to match up to international digital banking applications”, noted the press officer of Cyprus Bank Association Andreas Kostouris in an interview.
Most banks were prepared to present their clients with incentives to keep them out of their branches and safely at home, Kostouris said.
“Due to the need created by the pandemic, those who already had an online banking application were using it a lot more, while there was 5-10 per cent, depending on the bank, of new registered clients during the two months of lockdown”, he explained.
According to a Bank of Cyprus executive who spoke to the Cyprus Mail, “the increase in the use of online banking started before the virus and it is stable. There was of course a peak during Covid-19, but use seems to continue.”
The Nicosia-based Ancoria Bank is close to eliminating the need for a physical visit to the bank, as, since May, it offers its clients the option to book a video call appointment with their banker.
The bank also offers Ancoria Bank Create for the easy and rapid start of new accounts. By simply taking a selfie and a picture of your ID, individual customers of Ancora Bank can create a digital account without leaving their home and receive a physical debit card by post. The MyAncoria Internet banking app then provides access to all your accounts.
“Our clients have always been using online banking, but there was an increase in the creation of digital accounts during Covid-19”, said Head of Marketing Marietta Christodoulou.
According to data by the Bank of Cyprus, there was an increase of 10.6 per cent in 1bank online active subscribers compared to the corresponding period last year, while the subscribers who made electronic bill payments via quick pay increased by 88 per cent compared with 2019.
Clients of the Bank of Cyprus can also apply for the 1Bank mobile banking app from the comfort of their home. The 20-year-old application allows users to monitor their accounts or create an e-account without visiting a branch.
“We are on the verge of making everything digital this year”, a BoC executive told the Cyprus Mail. BoC’s clients may apply for a digital signature for the fee of €23 per year and they will soon be able to use it for their banking transactions.
Ancoria has been using e-signatures for most documents prior to the government signing a memorandum of understanding with commercial banks in the beginning of May even prior to the introduction of e-signatures in various transactions.
Cypriot banks also offer online applications providing remote account access, money transfer and checking balances. Those applications allow users to pay their bills electronically and transfer money to connected accounts or accounts in other banks with limited charges. Most apps also provide the fingerprint unlock option or face recognition for additional security.
Despite those apps offered by all banks, locals persist in choosing traditional methods of transactions and bill payments, Kostouris said, however more young people seem to avoid visiting the banks.
Astrobank introduced a local alternative in 2018 when the financial institution collaborated with a top-notch FinTech services provider and created the mobile bank account sKash.
With more than 10,000 installs in two years sKash (Smart Cash), is Cyprus alternative to international digital banking applications. The user is required to take a photo of their ID and then they can send money to anyone, even people who are not users of the application, make instant payments and even pay for online purchases by scanning a QR code on their phone, without entering personal information.
Users of sKash can also withdraw money from Astrobank’s ATM’s without their cards, just by scanning a code on their mobile phone.
All of the banks in Cyprus are hard at work to offer more services via online banking – and many are reducing fees for online transactions, then even raising fees for those who do business at branches.