From the Viewsroom

Outcasts in a digital world

Preeti Mehra | Updated on January 11, 2018

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Net banking is a challenge for the elderly

Every time my 65-year-old aunt visits the private bank in her neighbourhood, she is met with scowls and smirks from the staff who find her a bother and are not keen to help or answer her queries, and recommend that she use internet banking instead. She’s unfamiliar with net operations and so she has stopped visiting the branch and prefers to travel five times the distance to the main branch to seek help. The fact that I accompany her spurs the ‘relationship manager’ to help with her pension account.

She is not alone. There are countless senior citizens in a similar situation — not comfortable about accessing their account from a laptop or a mobile. Media reports about accounts being hacked and moneys being illegally transferred scare those who are new to computers, and make them distrustful.

And banks do nothing to assuage their fears. There is no dearth of advertisements projecting the customer friendly face of banks, and announcements about banks being accessible 24x7 thanks to net banking. Never do we see any promotional material assuring citizens that their accounts are secure and that they can bank online without fear of hackers. It is not just Indians who have reservations about net banking. Three years ago, data released by Pew Research Centre showed that only 61 per cent of internet users in the US bank online. Reason: lack of trust in digital banking.

The hurdle is not just lack of familiarity with computers. Many senior citizens have failing eyesight and have to seek external help to manage an online account. Identity theft, technology hiccups and misuse of information only compound their apprehensions. Given this reality, banks should stop pushing digitisation for digitisation’s sake. Instead, they should provide one-on-one assistance to senior citizens who request it.

Digitisation may be convenient for the Government, but it has its downside. For elderly consumers, faceless banking contributes to substantial stress. Besides, the significant downsizing of staff in banks does not augur well for a developing country that needs employment for its burgeoning population.

Associate Editor

Published on May 21, 2017

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