Rapid evolution of the Internet and new information technologies have left Moroccan banks struggling to cope as they desperately adjust their working methods for survival in the new challenging and constantly changing environment.
Moroccan bankers are aware the new technologies have revolutionized the sector with the birth of the electronic bourse, bourse data communications and electronic mail.
"With the electronic mail, the bank will no longer need such a labor force. All operations will move faster and with greater efficiency, and the client no longer has to queue to make transactions," said a Rabat bank executive.
Morocco is nowhere near ready to embrace these new developments, bankers agree. The country's banks first have to revise their models for hiring and training bank executives.
However, bankers believe they still have sometime to adapt to the new reality, -- at least for Moroccan clients. "The number of Internet users is still very low in Morocco and most of the bank's client are still illiterate tradesmen," said another bank executive.
Moroccans can check their bank accounts via Internet, but they still cannot make transactions or payments via the net.
The secretary of state for new information technologies, Mr. Nasr Hajji, said recently there are 100,000 Internet surfers in a population of 30 million people.
A juridical vacuum is another major handicap for electronic banking. Morocco has not yet devised any laws to regulate the new sector.
Mr. Ahmed Nabaoui, head of the computer department at a Rabat-based bank says banks cannot venture out and embark on e-banking while there is still no guarantee of security of operations.
"Moroccan banks have to restructure their working methods to keep their customers," he said. "They (the banks) are fated to modernize their structures and to train their employees to turn the Internet into a lucrative business."
A number of Moroccan banks, including the real estate and tourism bank (CIH) and BMCE-Bank, have made big strides in this direction and even began making stock market transactions on the net.
"CIH is successfully coping with the new information technologies thanks to the computer systems it started to develop in recent years," says a CIH executive.
The bank's internal web site is a unique source of usable information, he said. "The bank considers the Internet as the best medium for constantly updated bank and stock market information."
Operators and executives at the stock market in Casablanca view the new information technologies from different perspectives. While bankers feel that with the advent of the Internet, they will no longer have to go through brokers to make bourse transactions, the brokers themselves believe they will still survive in the new environment.
"In carrying out stock market transactions through data communication, banks will still need people with commercial experience in financial and Internet products," says Mr. Nabaoui.
However, Noureddine Rachidi, a broker at the Moroccan financial market, said "the Internet and the new information technologies cannot substitute for the human factor in transactions. We will always have our place, and even if these machines are inevitable we will try to adapt."
Moroccan bankers admit that the new information age technologies are huge, but they are confident they can take it up. The example is being set by the BMCE-Bank, whose governing board decided last week to open an agency on the Net by January 2001.
"The e-agency will be a premiere for Morocco," said a bank official, who hopes other banks will not waste time following suit.
"We are running against the clock," said the BMCE-Bank, executive. "The world belongs to those who get up early." –(Albawaba-MEBG)
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