Banks, in the forefront of e-commerce

as seen in Trinidad and Tobago Newsday.

When it comes to e-commerce, are local businesses conducting transactions electronically? What about online?

Brands big and small around the country have websites that allow their consumers to purchase goods and services online. Furniture stores, local beauty brands, department stores and more are all online and ready to process purchases, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So how is this happening? Do banks that operate in TT provide financial solutions to businesses looking for an e-commerce solution? Is it becoming a cashless society?

Derwin Howell, executive director of Republic Bank Ltd (RBL), told Business Day the bank can make any business essentially cashless. “We will continue to look for opportunities to make life easier for consumers, as well as our business people. Card acceptance and electronic payment acceptance is where we are going. We want to eliminate as much cash floating around as possible by making more transactions electronic and we can facilitate that.” Howell said the bank’s transactions are tracked on a regular basis and the electronic transaction volumes are moving up. “This means that people are using the point of sales for smaller and smaller transactions. So, whereas before you might use cash to pay for a cup of coffee, people are getting a lot more comfortable with swiping that card, and when we get to the tap and go situation, that will move on a much bigger pace.”

Howell said the bank also helps business customers accept online payments. “We offer e-commerce hosting services where we can enable the electronic shopping cart on your website through our e-commerce service. You can fill your electronic shopping cart. Lettuce, cheese, milk, whatever it is, tally your total, enter your credit card number. Purchase. In the next couple of months or so, we should be able to enter your debit card number because by that time the whole country is moving to a new debit card, where all the cards will have a 16-digit VISA number.”

Howell said RBL uses a payment facility, namely, First Atlantic Commerce (FAC). “Most people in Trinidad use that. Our web developer works with the customer to get it done.” He added that the challenge tends to be whether businesses are web-enabled. “So having your inventory online and making all of those connections on your side is important. Our part just comes in at the end. It’s just when you click that button marked pay or check out, to then enter the credit card details and the amount. That’s really the only part that we do and we enable that through FAC. So a big part is really just convincing the businesses to go digital.”

The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) approaches its business customers from a relationship-building point of view and it starts with registered businesses (which operate within the laws of TT) opening a merchant account with RBC, with the guidance of a business solutions advisor who takes the business person through the entire process. Customers can also add merchant or e-commerce solutions after consultation with the bank’s business electronic sales specialists who are tasked with guiding businesses on-site on the various options. RBC’s options include a full-range on point of sale and payment acceptance technologies including wired or wireless debit and credit terminals, which allow business customers to accept payments anywhere. There is also the EZpay option which is a device that merchants can plug into their mobile phones to accept credit card payments. RBC also offers e-commerce solutions for businesses looking to make that next step and implement online payment capabilities. Each situation for each business owner is unique and RBC has deployed dedicated business banking professionals to work with businesses in TT.

First Citizens also offers a suit of electronic merchant services. Its e-commerce online payment platform gives businesses the ability to accept payments online. Like RBL, First Citizens also uses FAC to facilitate the collection of online payments in both TT and US currencies. A First Citizens account is required for the collection of payments processed using the gateway which features 3DSecure technology developed by Visa and MasterCard.

It is clear that the banks are poised to take businesses in TT online. The next question is, which industries are maximising these opportunities?