Internet banking service growing in Latvia

  • 2000-04-27
  • By Lauris Rinmanis
RIGA - During the last four months a new tendency has arisen in the banking system of Latvia. It is not extremely new in the world, but it seems that with the change of the first two digits in the indicators of the years, banks of Latvia have decided to change and expand their services and reach more into Internet.

Most of the banks have their own Web sites, which are mostly informational - a few banks provide information on accounts online without possibility of changing anything, but seven of them have upgraded their Internet services from simply informational to full banking services where customers can follow their account balance, pay bills and transfer money among accounts, receive an account statement and learn exchange rates.

There are differences in the provided services, but all of them try to prove one thing - you can access your account 24 hours a day from any computer in the world connected to the Internet.

One of the issues coming up when talk turns to Internet banking is security - all the banks assure their customers that they have done everything possible to prevent their sites and transfer data from being cracked, issuing lower level security to the informational sites and higher level security to data transfers. Banks issue unique code cards to their customers for transfer actions to secure clients and assure them that nothing wrong can happen.

Some of the banks started their Internet activities in 1997 and 1998 like Trasta Komercbanka, Hansabanka, but most of the banks are newcomers, very powerful newcomers.

Unibanka is the most significant one, having started only just before the new year but now reaching 3000. Trasta Komercbanka's TrastNet has operated since 1998 and is the leader in this sphere, having registered approximately 8,000 users, but the actual number would be close to 4,000.

Banks are interested in accessibility for customers, creating branches and bank machine networks, but that requires large investments. Internet banking is one of the ways banks can attract more customers with very low expenses, providing better and faster services. Internet banking makes life easier for customers, excluding visits to the bank from the daily agenda - very helpful to people who are very active in the banking sector and always fighting a lack of time.

The obvious is that Internet banking has a future in Latvia, and what it's going to be depends on customers' attitudes.