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Prudential fails to put all its Eggs in one basket

Should be called Geg -- its ecommerce message is definitely scrambled

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Egg -- the lifestyle-branded banking service from the UK's Prudential Corporation -- is taking a soft-boiled approach to ecommerce, even though it would like people to think it was a major player in the digital ballpark. From today if you want an Egg account you can only rustle it up if you apply via the Web. According to the hype, this makes Egg a "firmly established leader in the ecommerce market." So says CEO Mike Harris. "Of the 500,000 customers we have attracted so far we estimate around 30 per cent already have Internet access and with Internet growth in the UK running at around 11,000 new users a day, this proportion will increase rapidly," he said. But once customers have applied via the Net, there is nothing stopping them from ditching their modems and conducting their financial affairs by telephone -- or even by post. There's an eggy waft to this whichever way you approach it. This is not the cutting edge of ecommerce even though the PR window dressers would love you to think otherwise. On the face of it, Egg has done exceedingly well. In just six months it has met its five year target of £5 billion in savings and 500,000 customers and it now wants to cash in on two million Internet customers by 2004. But according to the Financial Times, despite this apparent success Egg is still expecting to make losses of £100 million by the end of the first year. Far from embracing ecommerce, it seems Egg is using it to block the number of new applications it receives to help stem its losses -- not dissimilar to what happens if you eat to many of the oval things. ®

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