Egg technology report spurs branch controversy

Egg technology report spurs branch controversy

UK consumers are warming to new technology, but many are not using it to its full potential, says a new report commissioned by UK direct bank Egg, which has denied that it is actively reconsidering its online-only banking strategy. The denial comes as fresh statistics indicate that Egg and Lloyds/TSB are putting clear blue water between themselves and rival Internet banking offerings.

The Egg report, billed as Britain's first in-depth study into the take up, use and speed of adoption of new technology by the British public extrapolates from the results of over 2000 face to face interviews conducted by Mori researchers between August and September.

The results reveal two pictures: first of a nation which has wholeheartedly embraced many aspects of new technology:

* 14 million people are dependent on their mobile phones;
* 15 million are online at home;
* nine million have digital television;
* a third of Internet users now buy products online;
* four and a half million people now bank online

Over two thirds of current users feel that mobiles, digital TV and PCs have become part of their everyday lives and by mid-2001 the report indicates that half the UK population will be online.

However, the report also shows that although 18m people use a PC or laptop for personal use, the majority (61%) use it mainly for traditional word processing. Twenty nine million adults still do not use a PC, and nine million claim they never will. The much hyped mobile technology WAP is used only by two per cent of the population.

The report also indicates a possible shift in sentiment, with some 17 million people expected to access a new technology product for the first time over the next six months. By mid 2001, the report states, more than 23 million people in the UK could be online.

Over the next four to five years, some 10 million people say they will depend on new technology for shopping, 14 million for banking, and six million people say they will make investments online.

Commenting on the report, Mike Harris, chief executive of Egg, comments: "It is clear to us that while many people have embraced new technology, it is still not being used to its full potential."

Harris is quoted in today's FT saying that Egg is considering abandoning its Internet-only strategy and starting its own branch network - possibly through a retail instore franchise at the chemist chain Boots. Egg has since denied the report claiming that branch banking is a long-term possibility but not an immediate priority. It says Harris's remarks to the FT that he is keen to target the estimated 28 million people who currently have no access to the Internet were misinterpreted.

Recent figures from research group MMXI Europe indicate that Lloyds/TSB and Egg are cementing their position as the UK's leading online banks. Egg is understood to command an 18.1% share of the market, based on unique visitor numbers in October, slightly behind Lloyds/TSB with 18.3%, but well ahead of Barclays with a 12.7% share.

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