Axa and Woolwich link up in Net service

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The Independent Online

Woolwich, the high street bank, and Axa, the insurance giant, are joining forces to offer a combined banking, investment and insurance service over the internet, digital television and Wap mobile phone.

Woolwich, the high street bank, and Axa, the insurance giant, are joining forces to offer a combined banking, investment and insurance service over the internet, digital television and Wap mobile phone.

The service, to be branded as Axa Open Plan from the Woolwich, builds on the Open Plan concept already offering Woolwich customers the chance to offset their savings, mortgage and credit-card accounts to save on overall interest.

The link comes as Woolwich prepares to unveil figures showing that Open Plan take-up is running ahead of plan in its half-year results on Wednesday. The group set a target of 500,000 customers in its first year.

Woolwich is under City pressure to show that the heavy investment in Open Plan will be worthwhile, particularly as others, such as Halifax's Intelligent Finance, enter the market with similar products. Analysts estimate that spending on the infrastructure and marketing this year will approach £60m.

Axa will market the service to those of its 8 million customers it believes will be interested in banking services. Those who sign up will be offered a combined monthly statement detailing their balances with the two organisations. The service will also be offered on the new "best of breed" portal Axa plans to launch this autumn.

Lynne Peacock, group operations director at Woolwich, said: "We have always said Open Plan was meant to be open to other partners... Axa has a very strong brand and their research shows that their customers want to buy banking products from them."

Axa has made clear its belief that when competing for online customers, it needs to ally itself with providers with the expertise to offer genuine value, rather than provide everything from its own services. Mark Wood, chief executive of Axa in the UK, said: "The partnership is in line with our strategy of offering Axa customers products and services from leading providers in addition to our own."

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