Banking Matters 
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The digital evolution
By Katherine James, Head of Small Business, Danske Bank

The latest Ofcom Communications Market Report for Northern Ireland makes for very interesting reading.  In some ways the report confirmed what we all already know,  that consumers are increasingly using the internet at home and on the move for all aspects of everyday life, from online banking to shopping.  Sixty per cent of people now purchase goods and services on the internet for example – and Northern Ireland has the highest ownership of tablet computers in the UK, with the number of people owning a tablet trebling in the last year.

As well as the changes in how we communicate and how we shop, similar trends can be seen in how we pay.  The Payments Council’s report ‘The Way We Pay’  highlighted that just as we can’t imagine how we ever did without the internet, many people will soon wonder how we used to be so dependent on cash and cheque. Cheque usage halves every five years.  Debit cards are quickly taking over from cash in the lower value transaction category. Automatic payments like Direct Debit are now over three quarters of our regular commitments – up from half in 2001. Over the next decade debit card spending in the UK could close to double and contactless payment is poised to become even more popular.

Of course the payment needs of firms vary enormously according to their size and complexity.   Cheque usage is still popular with the smallest firms, but even so, cheque usage by business continues to fall sharply.   Use of Direct Debit among businesses lags behind consumer use.

The quiet revolution in payments has enabled the creation of whole new industries such as online sales.  It has changed, and continues to change, consumer behaviours, reduce transaction costs and increased the speed and efficiency with which businesses can collect payments and pay suppliers.

Of course as a high street retailer we at Danske Bank are not immune to these changes.  We are seeing and responding to constantly changing customer behaviours, such as the continued decline in the use of traditional branches for day to day banking and an increase in the use of online and mobile banking.  And we are being responsive to these changes by continually investing in new technologies like mobile and tablet apps.

In the autumn, we will take this a step further by launching a new programme designed to help our small business customers in every sector, to address these challenges and adapt to the ever increasing level of online sales and digital activity.

The overwhelming majority of firms in Northern Ireland are SMEs – and helping them overcome business challenges is vital to ensure the long-term health of the Northern Ireland economy.


The content of this section is provided for information purposes and does not constitute professional or other advice

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