Direct Finance: This area is secure

Ken Welsby and John Hancock on investment over the Internet

It's become almost a ritual: "Thank you for calling Go-Slow Insurance; my name's Debbie, how can I help you?" But once you have got beyond the greeting, and confirmed that, yes, you are calling an insurance company because you want some insurance, what will you be asked to provide?

Your postcode. And that's the key to the direction in which telephone- based financial services are heading.

In their early days, direct sellers were regarded as "cheap and cheerful" alternatives to the mainstream, established financial institutions.

Not any more. Increasingly direct sellers are using the latest technology to become more customer-focused. All the operator needs is your postcode in order to see on-screen details of your previous dealings with the business.

Robert Wint of Co-Cam, a company specialising in the kind of system which delivers this information, says large companies have traditionally been poor at customer relations. You could contact them several times and not be recognised.

This problem has become more acute as many bank branches have closed down and more customers have been allocated to faceless regional centres. Increasingly though, Mr Wint says, technology will "re-introduce the quality of one-to-one client relationships".

When making an investment, people like to feel important. Call centres and client-focused systems put client data on to any screen at the touch of a key. If you walk into your local bank and the person with whom you are dealing is able to ask if you are happy with the PEP you bought by telephone last week, you feel that you are a "real person" rather than an account number.

Developments of a different kind are taking place on the Internet. If you are looking for an investment, you can spend hours viewing investment data on the Web sites of most big UK investment providers.

Many of them include planning tools and on-line calculators to help you make a decision. Some will even handle questions, although the answers may be stock rather than true responses.

Today, most investment Web sites provide information and take enquiries, but do not handle payments. Although the technology for secure credit card transactions on the Net is becoming available, for most financial services transactions it's still a matter of completing a direct debit form or putting a cheque in the post. That should change later this year as secure payment technology such as IBM's CommercePOINT comes on stream, which will enable secure bank transfers to take place on-line.

It is worth remembering that most of these Web sites and the tools that they provide are part of a sales process and the information may be biased.

If you want to refer to something you read recently in The Independent, but didn't keep the cutting, you could be in luck if you subscribe to AOL Europe - the local version of America On-Line. With a few mouse clicks you can access our on-line edition and search the personal finance and business pages of recent issues to track down the information and save it for reference.

For anyone investing in managed funds such as unit or investment trust PEPs, companies such as Micropal and HSW maintain Web pages with up-to- date performance data from main providers.

For example, if you connect to Interactive Investor (http://www.iii.co.uk) or Find, the financial services net directory (http://www.find.co.uk) you can find not only performance figures from Micropal or HSW but performance histories, profiles and analysis.

The basic services are freebut for more details you have to register, to comply with the Financial Services Act, confirming you have asked for the information and that you understand the terms on which it is offered.

Lionel Welch, operations manager at Interactive Investor, sees the next development as being "push" technology, downloading an intelligent screensaver carrying investment prices and data which automatically updates itself at regular intervals.

John Perceval, managing director of Omnium Communications, which created and developed Find, says that "when on-line banking getsunder way later this year, attitudes to payment over the Web will change rapidly and make it possible for Web sites to accept payment and complete transactions for value".

Another new technology which is looming over the horizon is interactive television.With the advent of digital TV the medium will provide a richer information environment - and television has the capacity to influence events in ways that the Internet cannot.

You can see how television and investment are already starting to connect if you have satellite or cable services and tune in to the two business channels, EBN and CNBC.

EBN, European Business News - part of the Dow Jones empire which publishes the Wall Street Journal - carries a mix of business and financial programmes, with regular market updates.

CNBC is much more market focused, and from early afternoon provides live coverage of the action on Wall Street, including the on-screen ticker showing virtually real-time prices.

In the world of digital television expect to see tighter links between the Net and broadcast services. In just a couple of years from now, expect to sit at home watching live news conferences and market commentary in a television window on your Internet screen.

One final statistic to consider from Charles Schwab, the giant US broking firm and parent of ShareLink, Britain's leading execution-only broker. This time last year, only 5 per cent of its dealing came from the Internet. Now the figure has passed 50 per cent. Will Britain be far behind?

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Finacial products from our partners
Property search

Money Insider: How to make credit cards pay

Andrew Hagger reveals how to get the most from your plastic

Questions of Cash: My 'perfect travel companion' from the Post Office was a waste of money

One reader purchased the Post Office Travel Money Plus Card for a motoring holiday but discovered it can't be used at self-service petrol stations or autoroute toll booths

Continuing low interest rates are encouraging more people to switch to interest-only mortgages

Interest-only mortgages return to give more flexibility to borrowers

The credit crunch put a temporary end to these once-popular mortgages. But lenders are waking up to rising demand and relaxing their rules

EU to scrap roaming charges in 2017: European Commission under fire for taking so long to act

UK consumer groups complained that British holidaymakers face another two years of mobile phone misery before the law comes into effect

On the money: Yorkshire building society has demonstrated that it is taking the P2P industry seriously

Is peer-to-peer lending a risk worth taking?

The P2P industry must do more to shake off an unjustified image of being too complex and risky for the everyday saver, says Andrew Hagger

Generating grievances: Scottish Power's Longannet station in Fife

Questions of Cash: Scottish Power says it's sorry - again and again

Six of the energy company's customer have cause to blow a fuse this week

Will Patisserie Valerie be the portfolio's sweet spot?

Derek Pain: 'Patience is a virtue but maybe I should cut and run'

Derek's portfolio is currently suffering because of his failure to be more ruthless

There are now more than three million people in “severe problem debt”

Debt managers are misleading vulnerable people, warns watchdog

One debtor was given a repayment plan that would have taken 125 years to repay

Challengers are smashing the traditional high street banks when it comes to offering decent savings rates

Ignore the new breed of savings institutions and you'll lose interest

NatWest has ripped up its pledge to never be the last bank in town

NatWest pledged five years ago it wouldn't close the last bank in town. Now villagers have been told the branch shuts in September

When the last bank closes, local shops quickly go out of business

Under new state pension rules we will all be much worse off

Why did no one notice? The Government hides behind complexity, says Neasa MacErlean

Bogus Islington landlord scams public for £20,000 in fake deposits

It’s not just Islington... Simon Read warns renters and landlords about a nationwide fraud operation

Questions of Cash: The paperwork wasn't right so I was left high and dry with a broken washing machine

A reader encountered a problem with a Currys washer/dryer care plan

Borrowers should steer clear of established providers to get the best rates

Interest rates have never been cheaper if you want a five-figure personal loan but for lower-value loans it's a very different picture

Personal banking: Banking chiefs at NatWest and RBS insist that they are over the worst of the technical issues but customers are still complaining of payment issues. NatWest has waived overdraft fees and told customers they can withdraw £100 more than their limit over the next few days

People’s bank in crisis again: What should you do about the NatWest/RBS meltdown?

Thousands still waiting for payments to go through

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Assistant / Buyer

    £15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

    £15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

    Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

    £40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

    Day In a Page

    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

    Versace haute couture review

    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
    No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

    No hope and no jobs in Gaza

    So the young risk their lives and run for it
    Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

    Fashion apps

    Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate