Alliance rolls out online service
After a holdup of more than six months, a small-bank Internet alliance announced last year has finally rolled out a joint online service aimed at sharing investment costs among members.
Alliance partners said yesterday security enhancements and a revised implementation strategy was behind the delay in bringing the Internet service to the market.
The four banking members of NETAlliance which unveiled its online service yesterday are Asia Commercial Bank, Chekiang First Bank, International Bank of Asia (IBA), and Liu Chong Hing Bank - each committed 15 per cent of the upfront investment budget for the HK$300 million project.
Technology partner and project manager iMerchants holds the balance of the stake in the alliance - which is expected to become revenue-earning when new members are signed up.
'We were supposed to launch earlier, but we enhanced the security on the service and went through an audit to ensure we had a more than secure system,' said Bashar Samra, executive vice-president of IBA, which would chair the alliance.
'We also wanted to ensure that the four banks would launch the service at the same time and that we had a system that would be ready to have additional services offered in future,' he said.
Mr Samra added the HK$300 million committed by the alliance partners had not yet been fully spent.
IMerchant chairman and chief executive Leroy Kung Lin-yuen said the delay in offering the service - announced in May last year and originally scheduled to be operational by the fourth quarter - was due to a number of reasons.
'The biggest, obviously, was that all the banks wanted to get this right from the outset and technically this was important because it was not just about rolling out one phase of applications, but a multi-banking platform which allows more applications to be added,' Mr Kung said.
Initially the partners had focused on a single phase, he said, but during implementation work the emphasis had switched to a platform for future applications.
Chekiang Bank is an unlisted subsidiary of Japan's Mizuho Financial Group, and the other three partners are the smallest of Hong Kong's listed banks.
Mid-tier banking rivals which chose not to join the alliance and go it alone would have spent between HK$100 million and HK$200 million each on establishing an Internet banking platform for their customers.
NETAlliance said yesterday its service would allow customers to log directly into individual member home pages, where they would find a range of services including account and transaction inquiries, fund transfers, statement inquiries, loan applications, time deposit placements, credit card payments and optional features such as mortgage valuations and Mandatory Provident Fund payments.
Alliance chairman Mike Murad said the facilities offered through Internet banking would be expanded to include stock trading in the future.
'The cost savings obtained through joining NETAlliance should be of great interest to the local banking industry,' said Mr Kung, who is also vice-chairman of the alliance.
'Each member bank is realising substantial operational cost savings through joining the online banking consortium rather than developing their own platform.
'As new member banks join, costs are expected to be reduced further.'