Indian bank struggles with demand from UK savers

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The Independent Online

ICICI launched the HiSave Savings Account in June, offering 5.4-per-cent annual interest on a starting balance of just £1. The online account was popular because it paid more than any other easy access savings product.

However, many savers complain their money has not yet been credited to the ICICI accounts they have tried to open, or that they have not been sent the passwords needed to access their online accounts.

Martin Lewis, of Moneysavingexpert.com, the personal finance internet site, said: "ICICI's record of customer service in setting up accounts is one of the worst I've ever seen."

In a poll of users on the Moneysavingexpert.com site, 75 per cent of savers who had applied for an ICICI account described the process as "a nightmare" or complained their accounts still had not been properly opened.

ICICI is not well-known in the UK, though it is India's second largest bank. Earlier this year, it launched a joint initiative with Lloyds TSB for a banking service aimed at Britain's one-million-strong Indian community. The service provides free money-transfers between the UK and India, plus a rupee mortgage for Indian property purchases.

However, the bank only has a small presence in the UK, and deals with savers through a call-centre, or online.

Chief executive officer Fonjoy Chatterjee said ICICI had been taken by surprise by the demand for HiSave, after advertising the account for just one week in June, when it begin a pilot launch in the UK

"Even a week's listings on just one website gave us much more than we could have dreamed of," Chatterjee said. "Since then we have expanded our resources to create better resources and I believe we are now in control."

ICICI now plans a full-scale launch of HiSave in the autumn, though Chatterjee warned it could trim the 5.4 per cent rate following last month's Bank of England base rate cut.

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