Woolwich rolls out online plans for 'smart bank' on the Internet

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The Independent Online

THE WOOLWICH yesterday announced plans for a £125m national roll out of its hi-tech Open Plan service which allows customers to operate several accounts including mortgage, savings and current accounts as if they were one single account.

THE WOOLWICH yesterday announced plans for a £125m national roll out of its hi-tech Open Plan service which allows customers to operate several accounts including mortgage, savings and current accounts as if they were one single account.

John Stewart, the chief executive who is pinning the group's future on "smart bank" technology, said yesterday that he anticipates some 2 million Open Plan customers by 2002.

"This is not Internet banking; this is a hell of a lot more than that," he explained. "It is about running everything together ­ Anytime, anyhow banking."

Mr Stewart said that unlike recent Net bank launches by rivals such as Halifax and the Co-op Bank, whose smile bank launches later this month, the Woolwich had adopted a "clicks and mortar" approach using specially developed Intel and Microsoft software to integrate the new delivery services into the heart of its operation.

The Open Plan service offers a fully functional Net banking package including online access to financial planning software, automatic sweeping facilities between accounts, and statements.

The decision to go live follows a year-long trial in which some 25,000 customers signed up to the Open Plan service. Mr Stewart said that 20 per cent of those were new to the Woolwich.

The Woolwich is also set to introduce interactive financial planning, using on-screen visuals to illustrate the financial impact of financial decisions.

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