Technological change has impacted heavily on the structure, operations and economics of the financial services industry. Information technology (IT) alters the ways in which customers access services, mainly through automated distribution channels such as the internet, phone-based and other banking access channels. IT can also yield cost savings associated with the management of information (collection, storage, processing and transmission), and by substituting paper-based and labour-intensive procedures with automated processes.
Consumer uptake of IT innovation in financial services is of course dependent upon the IT sophistication of the customer base as well as their access to technology. In Ireland the IT infrastructure has been steadily improving. In 2004, the Irish Government sponsored infrastructure project Fibre Optic Metropolitan Area Networks was introduced aimed at permitting open access to private enterprise of ‘always on’ broadband. Phase I of this project saw the installation of fibre optic networks in 27 provincial towns with Phase II planned to add a further 66 towns. That said a recent OECD survey suggests that Ireland still lags behind the OECD average for broadband subscribers per capita.
Against the background of an increasingly conducive environment within which to offer IT based products and services we now present summary findings from two surveys designed to gauge the level of such provision by Irish credit unions.