Asian banks and securities firms will need to offer on-line services to compete against new high-technology ventures and to satisfy investor demand for more efficient services, according to Deloitte Consulting. The impetus to introduce on-line services would come from Internet startups and financial institutions in other sectors, such as insurance companies offering Internet banking services, Deloitte Consulting principal Sean Clifford said. 'The attackers are going to come in two forms,' Mr Clifford said. One would be incumbent players who integrated the e-commerce channel into how they operated and the other would be non-traditional players. Asian investors are expected to embrace Internet stock-trading due to the speed with which transactions could be conducted, he said. 'Electronic trading is going to become a social problem because people are going to quit their jobs and trade shares,' Mr Clifford said. 'We're going to start seeing people use the e-commerce channel more significantly over the next 12 months.' The threat of greater competition via the Internet would also encourage banks and brokerages to strike alliances to provide a one-stop service for customers financial needs. 'Securities, banking and insurance firms are all on a retail front starting to converge . . . allowing organisations to supply all of your financial services needs,' Mr Clifford said. In the United States, mergers among banks and securities firms are expected to occur after regulatory barriers separating the industries were removed last month. Global merger and acquisition activity for bank and securities firms has slowed this year with combined values expected to hit US$305 billion, compared with $365 billion last year. Banks that can integrate on-line services with branch networks will be best placed to face the threat of competition via the Internet, according to Deloitte Consulting. Deloitte Consulting principal Phil Strause said: 'In the end, with Asia's particular affinity for face-to-face interaction and familiar brand names, those who could reduce costs and provide superior customer service - by integrating the Internet with the value of their branch network - will prevail.'