BoS to offer online banking to standard account holders

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BANK OF SCOTLAND yesterday announced plans to offer customers the ability to access accounts, transfer money or order foreign currency through its free Internet service provider,

The bank said it will provide a new Internet service based on its Home and Office Banking Service (Hobs), which pioneered PC-banking in the Eighties. The bank recently launched an Internet-based mortgage service in Holland.

BoS is using the Internet to allow customers better access to existing services rather than set up a stand-alone Internet bank. Other banks have set up separate sites such as Prudential with Egg, Co-operative Bank with smile and Halifax, which aims to launch a separately branded Internet operation next year.

Barclays claimed earlier this year to have already established itself as Britain's largest Internet bank after launching its own free ISP in the UK.

BoS, which is currently embroiled in a hostile takeover bid for NatWest, claims that having pioneered PC-banking in the UK it has a head start over many of its competitors.

Hobs was launched in 1985 and now boasts 350,000 live accounts.

George Mitchell, chief executive of BoS' personal banking division, said: "Our research has shown that a great deal of uncertainty exists about the Internet and while customers want to benefit from its flexibility and convenience, they do not want this to preclude them from having access to more traditional channels.

"We do not believe, therefore, that customers should be given an 'either/or' option. They should have access to whatever channel they want, whether that be over the telephone, in a branch or via the Internet - or a combination of all three."