Abbey National says it is close to achieving one million online banking customers as it reports a strong start to the first quarter. The UK bank, which is currently embroiled in a takeover tussle with Lloyds TSB, says profits are running well ahead of the same period last year with mortgage, life assurance and wholesale banking operations delivering record levels of new business.
Abbey says it has now registered more than 850,000 customers, and has received approaching 120,000 product applications online. The group is also reporting £1.3 billion of mortgage approvals online in the first quarter.
Cahoot, Abbey's stand-alone Internet bank, has received more than 240,000 account applications and has accepted approaching 150,000 accounts, well on the way to the 200,000 accounts targeted by the end of 2001. Cahoot credit card balances are now in excess of £80 million, says Abbey, and current account balances over £700 million.
The UK Competition Commission is currently debating whether Lloyds TSB should be required to sell Cahoot in return for approving its proposed take-over of Abbey National. The enforced disposal of parts of the combined group's branch network is another possible remedial measure being investigated by the Commission.
Abbey has had some success in franchising out its branches and renting floor space to other retailers. The banks says the branch franchising pilot has now been extended to over 10% of the high street network, and is continuing to generate "significant sales productivity uplift".
The bank says it will also roll out more 'superstores', building on the experience of its first facility in Croydon, which includes a Costa coffee franchise, a Carphone Warehouse, an e-banking interface, a financial 'MOT' service, and lounge and play areas.
Abbet says it will halve its investment spend in 2001, cutting back on the £190 million that was poured into its retail e-commerce operations, finance house integration, cahoot and wealth management brand Inscape during 2000. The majority of this year's investment funds will be spent on the retail e-banking service and completing the finance house integration says the bank.