Yet still below the 70% of international community worldwide
The United States of America is for many people the ultimate goal in the expat market and it was therefore useful to get some feedback from expats living in America with regards to their banking services and banking facilities. Those who entered feedback in the online poll at the expatforum.com gave us a very useful insight into the world of banking in America and the expat community.
We will now take a look at the answers pulled from this research, done in conjunction with Barclays International Banking, and what these mean in relation to banking trends, banking services and cultural differences. There are some interesting answers and some interesting conclusions to be made.
Online banking (63.46%)
The figure of 63.46% is significantly below the average of 70.39% which will surprise many people who believe that the USA is amongst the most technologically advanced countries of the world. It would seem that for one reason or another a number of the expat community have been put off using online banking services in relation to their counterparts in other areas of the world.
The idea that the USA is not as technologically advanced as any other developed country around the world is a complete nonstarter for many people but we need to bear in mind the massive size of the country. There are large expat communities in the larger cities and towns of the United States of America but there are also large pockets of expats in some of the less well-known areas of the country. Therefore it is perhaps the low quality and low reliability of broadband services in some of the more rural areas of America which is dragging down the figure?
One issue which may well detract from online banking and other online facilities is the libellous nature of the United States of America and the massive law suits if there are any issues. This is only an observation from a distance and may well have very little impact with regards to the online community but there is no doubt that if you make a mistake in America you will be punished and punished hard!
These figures would suggest that there is more scope to expand the use of online banking in the United States of America and perhaps bring in some of the more rural areas which may well be left out of the equation at the moment. When you consider the large number of expats who visit America, both long-term and short-term stays, there is an expectation that online banking will be available across the board and by the looks of things, for whatever reason, some expats may be disappointed. It is therefore vital that you have backup plans with regards to your financial services and financial requirements just in case your first choice is not available.
Mobile banking (9.62%)
The term mobile banking will mean different things to different people and could well incorporate mobile telecom banking and mobile broadband banking. These are two very different services but they are services which are very much sought after by expats. There are many people who prefer to speak to a human rather than use an online service which is possible wherever you may be as long as there is a mobile signal. For many people this allows them direct access to advisers and people who can execute their instructions and transactions fairly quickly and also acknowledge these have been done.
Mobile Internet banking now takes in a variety of different forms rather than just your traditional smart phones with many mobile accessories readily available. In years gone by it was perhaps the smaller screens of older phones which put off many people because they were often illegible or difficult to read. However, we have seen the expansion of telephone screens, introduction of iPads and other tablet products which have taken away much of the concerns many people had. There are still security issues with regards to any mobile and Internet service and we need to be fully aware of the potential dangers and pitfalls.
There has been talk for many years of basically using your mobile phone as an online wallet allowing you to “charge your phone with money” and use it in various retail outlets around the world. This talk is now a reality for many people and when you bear in mind the number of people who have mobile phones or access to mobile phones it seems a very sensible route to market. There are very few people in the expat community who will not have access to mobile phones or mobile devices but again there may well be trust and security issues with regards to so-called “eWallets”. These issues have been discussed on numerous occasions in relation to mobile phone banking and mobile broadband banking so there is nothing new there.
Local branch banking (15.38%)
The figure of 15.38% is slightly greater than the 12.22% average in the overall poll and would seem to indicate that more people in the expat community living in America are happy to use local branch banking. This comes despite the fact that countries such as the UK for example have seen a reduction in the number of local bank branches over the years although whether it is the civil liberties movement which has offered some form of protection to the US local banking system is a matter for debate.
As we have mentioned on numerous occasions, each and every one of the major banking corporations around the world will have access, whether directly or indirectly, to each and every developed market. As a consequence it is highly unlikely that any of the major banks in Europe, the Far East or anywhere else around the world do not have some form of local branch service available in the United States of America. Indeed it was the Royal Bank of Scotland which became the largest banking group in the world prior to the worldwide economic collapse and the near fatal build up of debts which nearly brought down the bank. This perfectly illustrates how the European banking community has broken into America despite the fact that the walls and barriers to entry are significantly greater than those in Europe.
Postal banking (5.77%)
Many younger expats may well have never come across postal banking because it is something which has been around for many years but is not as popular today as it has been. However, with 5.77% of expats in America admitting to using postal banking facilities this is slightly higher than the 4.55% overall figure from the poll. The truth is that the popularity of postal banking has been reducing for many years now and indeed there are few people who would even consider what is seen to be a very slow and cumbersome service.
It would be interesting to see exactly what people describe as postal banking services because they may be deposits, withdrawals, credit card applications, mortgage applications or other similar activities. Some of these services are not time critical while others may well experience delays due to postal problems and if there are any issues with regards to your instructions these may have to be confirmed before being carried out. All in all there is no doubt that postal banking services may well be at the forefront of the minds of some people in the expat community but the vast majority are now looking towards the online arena, mobile banking and even local branch banking as a backup.
When you also take into account the fact that we have e-mail and online communication services which allow you to forward documentation online, rather than posting, it is difficult to see where postal banking services can go in the future. As trust and reliability issues continue to fall with regards to the online arena, this will probably have a detrimental impact on the off-line arena.
Other banking services (5.77%)
Again we have attracted a number of other comments regarding additional banking services available to expats around the world although the only one which we would like to highlight is cash.
Yes cash, it seems that some expats would prefer to keep their finances much closer to home in the form of cold hard cash. In a world which is dominated by online services, electronic cash transfers and credit cards this seems to be something of a throwback to years gone by. However, when you look at the number of difficulties many people experience in the online arena, with mobile phone banking and even branch networks, which is the safer?
Many people will be surprised to learn that some expats would prefer to carry around their finances in their pockets rather than swipe their cards to buy items and services. If you take a step back is it such a preposterous idea?
Issues to consider
We will now take a look at a number of issues which overlap the various banking services available to the wider community and in particular the expat community. These are general comments and general suggestions that we will all have thought about at some point and many of us will have made our decision regarding banking services based upon one or more of these.
While the online arena has brought about a major change in the worldwide financial system and financial services there are some drawbacks. Over the years we have seen some very highly publicised data breaches and indeed it seems that once the fraudsters gain access to for example credit card databases then everything is to play for. The reality is that no one banking service is ever totally secure and so long as the banking corporations involved and customers hold up their side of the security bargain then issues should be very few and far between.
All of the major financial corporations around the world have ultra-secure websites and experts who are reviewing and working on these on an ongoing basis. Consumers also have access to additional security software, antivirus systems and while some have fallen for the very basic and often very obvious e-mail and telephone scams these can be avoided. So as long as the financial arena as a whole and banking customers as a whole play their part then dangerous data breaches should be relatively few and far between.
Convenience is an issue which is potentially the main reason why online banking services have become so popular amongst not only the expat community but the worldwide community. The ability to literally flip open your laptop and log onto your bank account from anywhere in the world is something which only dreams were made of a few years ago. The convenience is that you can literally carry out your banking services and banking instructions 24 hours a day seven days a week even during the most unsociable hours.
While online banking is the ultimate in convenience for many people the same could also be said of mobile phone banking and even local branch banking. There is even an argument that postal banking is as convenient for some people as online banking but with this particular service it is perhaps the delay in transmitting instructions which is the downfall. In reality we are all very different, we all expect different services and we all want to be as secure as possible although often to a very different degree. So while online banking services must be the most convenient of services available at the moment there are some who would argue in favour of others.
The reliability of online banking has been brought into question on numerous occasions around the world with significant data breaches and security issues. The reliability factor for the online community, as well as the off-line community, very much goes hand in hand with security and accessibility. However, we must also take into account the fact that broadband services are not readily available in every corner of the world and indeed some areas may not see broadband initiatives coming into play for many years to come.
The truth is that there is no one banking service which is 100% reliable because they all have their positive points and then negative points. It is very much up to the individual as to which particular services they feel comfortable with and which particular services they see as more reliable. At the end of the day whether we go to a local bank branch, go online or telephone the banking call centre all we want to do is have the service available as and when we want it.
It was interesting to see that the figures for expats in the United States of America were less than average in relation to online banking, slightly above the average in relation to mobile phone banking, higher in relation to local branch banking and again higher with regards to postal bank services. This will surprise many people because the vast majority of us would expect the United States of America to be at the technological forefront of the banking arena. It is not immediately obvious why there is a below average figure in relation to online banking although this may well have something to do with civil liberties or indeed simply the availability of broadband and banking services across the USA.
Looking at America from the outside we very often come across cheap telephone services, ultra-cheap broadband and technology which seems to be well ahead of countries such as the UK. However, the figures emanating from the expat community in the United States of America seem to cast a slightly different light on the situation that will surprise many people. On the positive side there seems to be significant scope for improvement with regards to online banking, whether this is in relation to security or reliability, and this will not go unnoticed by the banking corporations of the world.
Putting in place your banking services and banking facilities when moving overseas should be one of the more important activities to place upon your “to-do list”. The truth is that each and every country around the world is very different, offering different services, different reliability levels and different security. You need to do your homework with regards to your expectations when landing in your newfound homeland because very often your expectations may not tally exactly with the services available to you.
The very fact that many banking corporations around the world have specific expat financial service advisers perfectly illustrates the massive growth in this particular niche market. The opportunity to receive advice and help with specific issues experienced by expats around the world could literally be worth its weight in gold to many people. Very often we take the simple things in life for granted and for many of us a reliable and secure banking service is one of these. Do your homework, ensure you know exactly what you want, be aware of what is on offer and if you need to make any changes then do so as soon as possible.
To be forewarned is to be forearmed!