Nokia's with the Woolwich in mobile-phone banking trial

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The Independent Online

The Woolwich, the building society turned bank, today steps up its claim to be one of Britain's most technologically advanced financial services groups with the announcement of a deal to provide access to bank accounts using Nokia mobile phones.

The Woolwich, the building society turned bank, today steps up its claim to be one of Britain's most technologically advanced financial services groups with the announcement of a deal to provide access to bank accounts using Nokia mobile phones.

It will be the first British bank to offer direct telephone banking using cell phones, although other banks are working on similar plans. The announcement comes just days before the Co-operative Bank goes live with the launch of its stand-alone Internet bank, smile.

A select group of customers will be offered a free top-of-the-range Nokia mobile phone in return for taking part in market research. The pilot scheme will allow users to check balances, move funds, pay standing orders and bills direct from their phone.

The trial will help Woolwich design the service it intends to provide when it launches the mobile- phone-banking element of the hi-tech Open Plan Service which is due to roll-out nationwide. The Woolwich last month announced a target of 2 million customers by 2002 for its integrated Open Plan Service accounts. The full mobile-phone based service will be available using Nokia's Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), designed to equip mobile phones to handle sophisticated transaction data. When up and running, the Woolwich service will be available via all mobile networks.

The Nokia deal is the latest in a series of technology-led initiatives by the Woolwich, which last week announced plans to launch interactive banking services on Open, the home shopping channel, next year. It has also embarked on joint ventures with Littlewoods, the high-street chain, and Countrywide, a leading US mortgage processing business.

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