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  • Background to the Study

Internet is a fast spreading service which allows customers to access account-specific information and possibly conduct transactions from a remote location- such as at home or from the work place. ATM cards, debit cards, credit cards etc. have eased up human life to a point that life today would have been hard and stressful.

The increased acceptance and penetration of internet have redefined the ground for retail banks. The retail banks are now offering their services mostly through their internet branches. However, the effect of internet banking on bank profitability has remained an understudied issue.

Daniel, (1999) cited in Al-hajri, (2008) describes internet as the provision of banking services to customers through internet technology. According to Basel Committee on banking, (2008), internet banking is defined as to include the provision of retail and small value banking products and services through electronic channels as well as a large value electronic payment and other wholesale banking services delivered electronically. Though Al-samadi and Al-wabel, (2011) expressed that the definition of internet banking varies among researchers partially because internet banking refers to several types ofservices through which bank customers can request information and carry out banking services.

However, the change in the banking industry in Nigeria started with the advent of electronic devices to assist in carrying out quality services to the customers. The introduction of these electronic devices, has increased competition in the industry, and has gone a long way to reduce customers’ waiting time for banking transactions. This invention is brought in by the use of computers and other networks. In Nigeria, the networking started with the LAN (Local Area Network), MAN (Metropolitan Area Network) and later, WAN (Wide Area Network).

Generally, the automation of banks makes transactions and data processing very easily reached for quick management decision making. This led to another level of benefit which brought in what is today referred to as internet. Internet Banking helps the banks to speed up their retail and wholesale banking services. The banking industry believes that by making use of the new technology, banks would improve customer service level and tie their customers closer to the Yang and Whitefield, (2005). Simpson, (2002) asserted that what actually motivates the investment in internet banking is largely the prospects of minimizing operating costs and maximizing operating revenue.

Nevertheless, the adoption of Internet Banking has brought challenges to the industry in terms of risk exposure. The volume of deposits has increased as well as fraudulent practices experienced by Nigerian banks since its adoption in the economy. This is why Ovia, (2001) posits that Nigeria’s banking scene has witnessed remarkable changes, especially in the mid-80s and these have been seen in the large volume and complexity in product or service delivery, financial freedom and business process re-engineering. The effectiveness of using Information Technology in banks therefore cannot be put to doubt. The fact remains that the idea of using IT in banks is necessitated by the huge amount of information being handled by banks on a daily basis. On the side of the customer, cash is withdrawn or deposited; cheques are deposited or cleared, statement of accounts are provided, money transfers and so on. At the same time, banks need up-to-date information on accounts, credit facilities and recovery, interest, deposits, charge, income, profitability, indices and other control of financial information.

However, researchers have not given much attention to this change caused by internet banking with regard to profitability performance of banks. The changes in industry in Nigeria occasioned by the idea of internet banking has forced Nigerian banks to invest more on assets to meet up with competitive positioning. Since many earnings have been retained to meet up this obligation, shareholders have been denied dividend with the anticipation of fatter future dividend.

The banking software which is usually improved on a short term basis causes huge financial costs to the banks. To the capital providers, they expect extremely large returns from the project if the internet is adopted. Annual financial reports of Nigerian banks in recent years have shown that dividend returns are dwindling while other performance indicators seem to be weak contrary to the expectation of the shareholders or investors.

Generally, there appears not to be improvement on banks’ return on equity and assets as speculated.

1.2 Statement of Problem

A great majority of the recent works on electronic money and banking suffers from a narrow focus. It usually ignores internet banking in every way and equates electronic money with the substitution of currency. For instance, Freedman, (2000) put forward that e-banking and electronic money consists of three devices; access devices, stored value card, and network money. Internet banking is simply the use of new access device and is therefore ignored.

Electronic money is the sum of stored value (smart) cards and network money (value stored on computer hard drives). Within this constricted room for internet banking and electronic money, there are however many research that addresses one or more of the challenges facing it. Santomero and Seater, (1996), Prinz, (1999) and Shy and Tarkka, (2002) and many others have produced models, that ascertain conditions under which different electronic payments substitute for money. Most of these models show that there is at least the possibility for electronic substitutes for currency to emerge and succeed on a large scale, depending on the features of the various technologies as well as the trait of the potential users.

Friedman, (1999) point out that internet banking presents the chance that a totally different payment system, not under the control of the Central Bank may arise. King, (1999) argues, that today computers make it at least possible to avoid the payment system altogether, instead using direct bilateral clearing and settlement

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