WEEKLY WEB WATCH: On-line bank is a matter of If and when?

Organisation: The Halifax

Organisation: The Halifax



Issue: Intelligent Finance



At: www.halifax.co.uk





The Halifax was met with an underwhelmed and sceptical media earlier

this month when it launched Intelligent Finance, a new on-line bank

which aims to go live this summer.



If.com was billed as being revolutionary and ’changing banking for

ever’, but the Independent went so far as to say that ’Halifax has done

itself few favours by over-egging and hyping the venture to an almost

tedious degree.’



The idea is a more sophisticated version of products, such as Virgin One

and Woolwich’s Open Plan, already on the market which allow customers to

link savings and loan accounts so they always get the best possible

rates. The unimpressive reaction to the product even hit Halifax’s share

price.



The bank has high targets - it wants half a million people to sign up to

If in the first year of operation, and two million by the end of

2004.



But a look at its web site seems to indicate that the bank was relying

on rave reviews from the media to generate interest from potential

customers in advance of If being available.



The site’s media centre is the only area where the service is mentioned,

with two lengthy press releases about the launch and a separate deal

with BT Cellnet to give WAP phones away to If customers this summer so

they could access their account via mobiles. Intelligent Finance is not

flagged up in the ’what’s new’ area on the home pages or anywhere else

on the site.



The media centre has an archive of press releases month by month, dating

back to December 1998. The media centre is in the Company Information

section of the site, which also includes a company profile, details of

Halifax’s community involvement, investor information, and a section on

jobs at the bank.



The site does give details of all Halifax’s other products, from current

accounts to insurance and pensions, and its existing on-line banking

service, however. There is a choice of looking for information by

lifestyle category - such as ’young and carefree’, ’student life’, ’a

better lifestyle’ or ’more time for ourselves’ to find the most suitable

products. The site can be a bit tricky to navigate, but there is a

search function.



Halifax is a well-respected brand, and it will be interesting to see if

consumer reaction to its ’radical’ new service will be as high as it

hopes. In the meantime, the web site could work harder to drum up

support



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