Smile celebrates half million customers

Smile celebrates half million customers

UK Internet-only bank smile is celebrating a 43 per cent rise in customer numbers with plans to open an online liquor store and share-dealing service later in the year.

Launched by the Co-operative Bank in October 1999, smile says it now has 500,000 customers, up from 350,00 a year ago. More than 80 per cent of smile's accounts are new to the parent bank.

The figures give the Co-op a lead over similar standalone initiatives from high street rivals Abbey National and HBOS. Abbey's Cahoot offshoot last reported 240,000 customers, while IF had 370,000 at last count. Both services were launched in 2000.

Smile's chief executive, Bob Head comments: "Most traditional banks pay around 0.1 per cent on their current accounts. The great thing about smile is that as an Internet bank we have lower costs because the customer is doing most of the work."

Smile is currently paying 3.04 per cent gross on current accounts from £1 upwards. Says Head: "It is our experience that many people are trying out smile and once they are satisfied that it works, switching over to take advantage of our excellent deals and service."

Smile plans to capitalise on its popularity by introducing an online liquor ordering service in conjunction with Co-Operative retail outlets later in the year. Head has also outlined ambitions to launch an online share dealing service by the fourth quarter.

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