UK's first online banking service Homelink hits 30

UK's first online banking service Homelink hits 30

30 years after the launch of Homelink, the UK's first online banking system, software house Intelligent Environments is setting its sights on the future of digital financial services by developing a smartwatch app.

Launched in November 1983 by Nottingham Building Society with backing from Bank of Scotland, Homelink enabled customers to view statements, transfer money between accounts, pay bills and arrange loans online.

The system even included an e-commerce feature, letting customers compare prices and order goods from several retailers as well as arrange holiday's via Thomas Cook and send electronic messages to other Homelink users.

"The system was massively ahead of its time," says John Sinclair, an early Homelink user and a founder of The National Museum of Computing. "I organised a mortgage through the system and it even pioneered an email-style messaging system with technology called 'viewlets'. These were essentially short messages which pre-dated the widespread use of e-mails by 15 years."

The service tapped into the UK Post Office's Prestel Viewlink system and used a dedicated computer terminal connected to the customer's telephone and television.

The Tandata TD1400 Prestel System used for Homelink banking

According to a 1984 New York Times article on the service, Nottingham Building Society offered a $350 terminal for free to 12,000 of its wealthy customers while another 18,000 were tempted with a heavy discount.

In all, the building society and its two partners had spent around $15 million on Homelink - including on sponsoring the 1983 World's Strongest Man competition, won by Brit Geoff Capes - at the time the Times article went to press.

However, despite the investment, Homelink lasted only two years. Says Sinclair: "It's a shame that the system died out by 1985 probably because of the cost of using online services at that time."

With online banking now ubiquitous and mobile banking rapidly gaining users, Intelligent Environment is setting its sights on the next channel likely to take off - the smartwatch.

The vendor has developed an app which can be installed on any Pebble watch and lets users view their live bank balance and recent transactions, vibrating when the wearer's overdraft limit gets too close for comfort.

IE claims to be in discussions with a range of unnamed banks looking to roll out the Interact app to customers.

Comments: (1)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 18 November, 2013, 15:17Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

I'm not sure on the wearable tech and apps taking off. So many smart phones are getting bigger screens because of the user experience demanding it, even the iPhone has grown. SO to presume we will want to move back to smaller screens on our watch seems odd, especially as I will still need my phone as a communication tool, and no doubt, it will still be getting bigger (just look at Samsung Note, and Nokia 1520 devices)


Wearable deliver no added value to me as a consumer, apart from ruining my fashion sense...