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Online Banks Should Take A Lesson From Online Brokers

by Carla Johnson, Investors

21 November 2001

According to a report from the Business Week, now is not the time for investors or any bank customers for that matter to restrict their Internet spending. According to the Online Banking Report, a fifth of US households (22 million) will bank online this year which is up 42 per cent from 2000 and the number of people paying bills over the Internet will increase from 3.5 million to 8 million this year. But the banks just don't seem to be doing their best to attract customers to their online products and making their financial operations easier than they are.

In an economic recession, the suggestion is that as clearly people want to keep a careful watch on their finances - online banking is the way to go about it. And this is particularly true for any type of investing. Business Week claims that a good lesson can be learned from online brokers who realised early on that as their clients tend to be generally wealthy and purchasers of financial products, they will have considerably higher household incomes than 'offline' households.

Online brokers, therefore, caught on to the idea of offering extra services through their web sites and although the value of assets is dropping, billions of dollars are apparently flooding into the major online brokers for services such as money-market and bond funds. Thus says Business Week, the 'asset growth rates of the top online brokers have far exceeded the growth of consumer deposits at banks offering ho-hum online banking services,' and it calls for for banks to 'treat online banking as a part of their distribution strategy for products such as home-equity loans, mortgage refinancing, and credit cards.'

The article claims that most banks offer simple online services that amount to no more than an ATM machine and checkbook service and are not offering enough. At the very least, online banks should let customers track their tax-deductible transactions and create services that help people track their finances, such as Quicken-like accounting features.

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