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Created on 25.01.2021

Online banking: a quick look back

Having to go to the bank specially just to transfer money or pay an invoice? And only then during opening hours? It’s hard to imagine nowadays. With online banking, you can take care of your banking transactions independently. We outline how this came to be and take a look back at the history of online banking at PostFinance.

For many people, simply sitting at your computer or picking up your smartphone and logging in with your fingerprint to pay invoices now comes naturally. Thanks to online banking, we now have control over our day-to-day banking transactions − at any time, in any place. But how did that come to be? Here are the key stages in the development of online banking, i.e. electronic banking on the internet using electronic devices, with a particular focus on Switzerland.

1980s: forerunners of today’s online banking created

In 1983, the Bank of Scotland became one of the first financial institutions to introduce something akin to online banking with its Homelink service. But at that time it was still not particularly practical as customers had to connect to the internet using a TV and a telephone to transfer money or pay invoices. Nevertheless, it can be considered a forerunner of today’s online banking, just like the tele-banking services that ran through the Videotex system from PTT (which is now Swiss Post).

1990s: the start of online banking as we know it today

The 1990s saw the development of both technology and of the internet as an affordable service. While surfing the web had long been a luxury, after 1996 the internet became considerably cheaper in Switzerland and reached the wider public. And so online banking gradually took off in Switzerland from then on. PostFinance, for instance, introduced its yellownet service in 1998.

2000s: it all gets a bit more practical

Logging into online banking became more practical. Let’s take the example of PostFinance once more: while customers using yellownet for their online shopping had to enter their participant number, personal password and a code from their single-use password list or card reader, the arrival of e-banking in 2007 meant authentication could be carried out using a card and a code generated by a new type of card reader. It was a success: by 2009 e-banking already had over 1 million registered users.

2010s: online banking gets mobile

In the 2010s, online banking really started to take off. Figures from the Swiss Federal Statistical Office show as much, with 54% of the Swiss population aged between 16 and 74 using electronic banking by 2014, and 73% by 2019. And yet there is still room to grow: in the same years, uptake in Norway was at 89% and 95% respectively.

The 2010s were also marked by the use of smartphones and apps for online banking. In September 2010, PostFinance became the first financial service provider in Switzerland to launch a mobile banking app. This brought new functions with it, such as scanning and paying invoices via Scan + Pay. And there were more developments, with logins getting easier and easier. Since 2019, a fingerprint or facial recognition has been all you need to log into your online banking.

2020s: we’re excited to see what comes next

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