SWITCH ON TO 21st CENTURY BANKING; Digital TV Challenge to Internet

Article excerpt

BANKING in Britain is about to take a giant leap into the 21st Century with two major players promising new high-tech packages.

HSBC has announced plans to become the first digital TV bank while the Co-op notches up another first with the launch of a "full" Internet banking service today.

According to HSBC's chief executive Bill Dalton: "TV banking is a revolution which will change the way we organise our money".

The bank is offering customers the chance to run their accounts via digital TV.

Currently, only around 1.2 million homes have satellite digital TV and customers who use HSBC's service can only use their TV to check their account and credit card balances.

But from February next year they will be able to transfer cash and pay bills while other services such as travel and health insurance will follow.

And with around 5,000 customers signing up on the first day it is already proving popular.

To join the high-tech revolution, they can use their TV, phone 0845 6001240 or even make an old-fashioned personal visit to a branch.

Other banks will follow with Abbey National, Barclays and NatWest all planning similar schemes.

TV services add to the Internet versions already on offer from firms such as Barclays and Egg.

Barclays claims to have around 380,000 customers signed to its Internet service and Egg is recruiting around 10,000 a day.

But the Co-op says its new facility will offer customers the complete range of services through the Internet - current account, savings account, credit card and personal loans. Rivals are planning to follow suit - so does it mean the end for the traditional bank branch still used by millions every day?

More than 4,000 have closed in the 1990s and thousands more are expected to go.

Mirror Money talked to two customers who are happy with the new-style banks.

But we also found experts happy enough to defend the old-style branch.

David Emery of IBM's finance unit advises firms on moving to so-called electronic banking.

He says: "The Internet and TV are not replacing anything that is already in existence.

"It is all about customer service. For most of the established banks, electronic delivery is an additional service.

"All the conversations we have with banks are about customer service, not saving money by shutting branches."

Research by top accountants Ernst & Young backs this view.

It found that banks expect branches to remain important, accounting for a third of the bank's business in 2002. …