Move to Internet absorbs US$2.5b

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 February, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 February, 2000, 12:00am


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HSBC Holdings will spend US$2.5 billion this year to support the launch of a wide range of Internet banking products and services.

'We are doing so because we believe the opportunities of e-commerce will change the fabric of the way business is done in financial services,' group chief executive Keith Whitson said yesterday.

Outlining an Internet strategy which bank analysts later welcomed as positive for the group's earnings' outlook, Mr Whitson said the first step had been a radical restructuring of its financial services portal,

'We have spent the last 18 months working with IBM developing what we call IFS, or interactive financial services,' he said.

The IFS accounting platform would enable HSBC to connect with any device operated by any of its customers, and the platform was enabled to handle 'huge levels' of traffic, Mr Whitson said.

The e-banking exercise had required significant financial and intellectual resources, Mr Whitson said. During the course of this year, HSBC would spend $2 billion on technology initiatives, and another $500 million on information technology to support the initiatives.

HSBC has, in the meantime, strengthened management with the appointment of Roberta Arena, formerly of Citicorp, as head of global e-business.

'Roberta spent 24 years with Citicorp and has a tremendous track record and brings a wealth of experience to HSBC,' Mr Whitson said.

Already successfully piloted by HSBC in its global operations were mobile phone-banking in Britain and Hong Kong, Internet banking in Brazil, and securities trading in Australia and Canada, he said.

Due to be rolled out in the next few months would be Internet banking for personal banking customers in Britain, the United States and Hong Kong.

Singapore and Australia would follow in the third quarter, and Malaysia, Turkey and Greece would follow in the fourth quarter.