BANK of the Bahamas International is today launching its e-commerce platform, its managing director describing it as "an ideal time" to make the move.
The bank said its e-commerce platform will be the first in the nation to fully facilitate online payments in Bahamian dollars, allowing merchants to accept all major credit cards on their website and receive prompt payment in the currency.
According to one source at the bank, retailers have been awaiting a service many felt was badly needed and long overdue. "The dual components - prompt settlement and payment in B$ - have made this the most sought-after business product, I believe, that Bank of the Bahamas has ever introduced. It has the potential to do for business what the pre-paid Visa card did for personal financial control."
Paul McWeeney, the bank's managing director, said B$ e-commerce was a natural progression. "This is a project that we began envisioning several years ago, and it has taken a lot of time and investment," he said.
"We never once lost sight of the ultimate goal, which was to make it easier for business to do business in the Bahamas and more convenient for consumers to make purchases, or clients to pay for services, for everyone to order from a supplier at home and arrange delivery, pay a bill or fee. The world is moving toward online management of finances, and the Bahamas must be in line with that movement or risk losing our attractiveness as a place to do business."
In the US, online shopping is growing so fast that it is now estimated that 40 per cent of the adult population shops online at least twice a week, with men outpacing women in growth rates. Americans spent $816 million online during Black Friday last year, the day after Thanksgiving.
Online Christmas shopping was up by 16.4 prr cent, and the biggest jump has been in the increase in online shopping through mobile devices including iPhones, iPads and Androids.
"Because of the upgrade in technology available locally now, this is really an ideal time to introduce e-commerce," said Mr McWeeney.
Merchants wanting to take advantage of the e-commerce process must have a website and meet standard banking criteria that would qualify them for an account at Bank of the Bahamas International.
Four merchants have been testing the system since March 1, and credit card centre manager, John Washburn, said payments have gone through smoothly. "We anticipated a few hiccups as you would with anything that is this dramatically different, but it has been working extremely well," he said.
Among the first expected to jump on the e-wagon for payment settlement is the hotel industry, particularly smaller properties that do a lot of local business and will now be able to receive payment for reservations, banquets, luncheons, conference room rentals and other events.
"BOB's launch of e-commerce with next day settlement of online credit card payment for goods and services in B$ is almost as dramatic a paradigm shift in how business is done as the introduction of the credit card itself," said Mr McWeeney. "We are very proud to be in the position to assist business in this way."