The number of people in the UK who have used the Internet to search for information on share prices, ISAs, pensions and mortgages, has increased by 80 per cent over the past year, according to research published by BT Finance Industry Solutions and The Henley Centre.
However, the study - conducted among 1000 UK adults - also indicates that people are not yet ready to give up their bank account with a high street bank or building society. The growth in the number of people that have abandoned the high street to bank online is slowing.
Ben Burgess, general manager of BT Finance Industry Solutions, comments: "The reason for this plateauing out of online banking is that we have reached the big gap between the early adopters - who embraced the technology several years ago - and the rest of the population, who haven't yet started to use it. It is the great challenge now for the financial services industry to leap that chasm and make electronic channels appeal to the majority of the population."
According to the study, more than one third of the UK population gained financial information over the Web this year, and those who have bought financial products online has trebled to 15 per cent. Yet despite this sharp rise, people have not stopped using traditional ways of banking. Of those who have used the Internet, only two per cent have stopped going to the branch, and they are 15 per cent more likely than average to use the phone for banking.
Says Brugess: "The research explodes the industry myth that new channels, such as the Internet, will replace the old ones, like the branch. Seventy-six per cent of respondents said they would prefer to have a choice of how they communicate with their financial provider, and it seems that online services are what people want - but not to the exclusion of traditional channels."
Indeed, according to the latest figures from BMRB Internet Monitor, the number of people actively banking online has levelled off sharply over the past few months, with a drop of 100,000 users between May and August 2001, putting the total number of online bankers in the UK at 5.6 million (11.5 per cent of the population).