One hundred trailblazing customers from The Woolwich today become the first people in the UK to be able to run all their personal finances on the move using a WAP mobile phone. They are all customers of The Woolwich's Open Plan integrated banking service and can now view balances and transactions, pay bills and transfer money through a secure Internet link made possible by Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) technology.
This first group of one hundred customers marks the start of a commercial partnership between The Woolwich and Vodafone, using Nokia's revolutionary WAP telephone, to develop and market a strong consumer mobile E-commerce proposition.
What can a customer banking on the move with The Woolwich actually do?
The system has been designed to make it as simple as possible for customers to use, leading them through transactions step-by-step. They can:
* Transfer money between accounts, for example move savings to make payments to a mortgage. Instructions can be given for a transfer to take place on a specific date, up to six weeks in advance.
* Pay bills.
* Check the balance, or valuation, of any account held with The Woolwich. This includes mortgages, savings, unit trusts and maxi ISAs as well as Current Accounts.
* Look at the ten most recent transactions on accounts.
The first hundred customers have been provided with a Nokia 7110 WAP phone and, from Vodafone, line rental for one year. In return they have been asked to access their accounts regularly over the Internet using their mobile phone and provide user feedback. From April, all Open Plan customers will be able to access their Woolwich accounts - not just current accounts, but also savings and borrowings through a WAP mobile phone.
As well as managing their personal finances, customers can also access information services including news, weather and sport. Already, at the start of development, this will enable the customer to stay up-to-date while on the move. Shortly customers are likely to have access, through this service, to a wider range of information and even be able to go mobile-shopping, paying for goods bought on the Internet direct from their WAP mobile phone.
Announcing the launch, John Stewart, Chief Executive of The Woolwich said: "Open Plan is not a series of accounts, but a new approach to banking. As part of its development we are launching a groundbreaking service today, the first of its type in Europe outside Scandinavia, which goes well beyond the text message-based mobile banking services currently on offer. In future our customers will be able to manage their personal finances wherever they are in the world through any electronic channel or, if they prefer, use the telephone or visit a branch. This is real anytime, anywhere, anyhow banking."
"But this is just the start. With technology moving ever faster, the boundaries of the possible are being constantly pushed back. The potential benefits to consumers, and the commercial benefits to The Woolwich from active participation in these developments are huge. Mobile phone Internet users are forecast to outstrip PC Internet users and we intend to capitalise on these developments through on-going partnerships with world leaders in mobile communications, Vodafone and Nokia."
Vodafone UK Chief Executive, Peter Bamford commented: "This is the first example of mobile banking over WAP in the UK and Vodafone is excited to be part of this groundbreaking service with The Woolwich." He continued: "We will continue to work with The Woolwich to achieve our objective to become the UK's leading mobile commerce operator through the Vodafone Interactive service, enabling our customers to carry out financial transactions anytime, anywhere, giving them a bank in their pocket."
Is it secure?
Yes - Using the Vodafone GSM network with the Nokia WAP server solution, customers dialling into the service make contact directly with The Woolwich's own systems and there is full 128 bit encryption between the customer's phone and The Woolwich. People keen to use Internet banking via their work PC are being curtailed as many company networks do not provide adequate security. The Woolwich's WAP service eliminates this issue as it connects directly with the customer's phone.
What additional information will be available?
Initially customers will have access to a wide range of information under the broad headings of news, weather and sport, aggregated and provided to The Woolwich by Limerick based, i2mobile.com, with much of the content supplied by Reuters. These information services will develop rapidly over the next few months to include interactive access to the Internet.