Internet Investor: Don't bank on the Net, yet

By and large I have steered clear of getting into the technicalities of computers, modems, software and the paraphernalia which is involved in surfing the net for several reasons, not least because this is not a column about computers and I am by no means an expert on such matters.

Like most people I switch the kit on and expect it all to work as it should. Thus to be confronted by the following message was dispiriting: "Netscape's network connection was refused by the server. The server may not be accepting connections or may be busy. Try connecting again later."

This is software-speak for: "The number you have called does not know that you are waiting, nor does it care. Try again some time and have a nice day!"

So what? Well, I find it a matter of some concern to be confronted by such a message while investigating the options available for banking on the internet. It makes a mockery of the advantages one would rehearse for being able to bank via one's own computer in one's own time. It would be like turning up to the bank to pay money in or cash a cheque to see a notice on the door saying: "We're closed but we'll be open some time later. Come back then."

In fact, it happened to me last Sunday night, when one might reasonably assume that the website in question would not be overly busy. In fairness, I should also report when I tried again the following morning I had no difficulty in getting on to the site. But that is not the point.

For web banking to take off it has got to be available to the customer and the potential customer when he, she, you or I want it. Not when it suits the bank to offer it.

If the reason I could not get on to the site was because it was too busy then the bank in question needs to expand its facilities. If the reason was because of some kind of computer failure then they need to improve the back-up systems. The institution in question? It was Royal Bank of Scotland's website.

Admittedly, electronic direct banking is in its infancy, at least in the UK. The first bank to offer online services was American. Wells Fargo Bank launched its online services in 1989 and internet banking in May 1995. It now has around 200,000 online accounts.

For financial institutions facing increasing competition from the likes of supermarket banking it is a logical step to become a "Martini" business - anytime, anyplace, anywhere.

It was only in June last year that the Royal Bank of Scotland's internet banking service went live, becoming the second big UK financial institution to offer banking on the web, beaten by two months by the Nationwide Building Society, which launched its online service in May 1997.

So far, these two remain the only web-based accounts on offer from large British financial institutions. However, the other banks are not far behind. Several offer PC banking via their own "intranet" operations, while TSB runs an online service through the service provider Compuserve which Lloyds is building on to establish internet banking.

By January 1998, after six months in operation, Royal Bank of Scotland's service "direct banking by PC" had 10,000 customers. The bank had originally planned for the service to be free for each customer's first six months, after which a charge of pounds 1.50 per month was to be made. However, the charge has now been withdrawn and the service is fee-free.

Nationwide Building Society's recently redesigned Online Banking site was always designed to be fee-free and allows you to run a FlexAccount and access CashBuilder card and InvestDirect accounts online. I will be returning to the subject of just how these accounts operate and what you can and cannot do banking online in the future.

Nationwide Building Society: www.nationwide.co.uk

Royal Bank of Scotland: www.rbs.co.uk

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
  • Get to the point
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

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Swiss Banking and Finance

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Can you speak German,...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - 6 month FTC - Central London

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity f...

    Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application) - Agile

    £215 per day: Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application ...

    Guru Careers: Software Engineer / Software Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software Engineer / Softw...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power