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First Direct launches mobile phone banking service

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Bank managers will soon be playing Big Brother by calling your mobile phone every time you are in the red. Within weeks, users of telephone bank First Direct will be hit by the new service which sends text messages on balances and recent transactions. Messages appear twice weekly on two accounts. The scheme will expand in the next few months, calling customers every time they go overdrawn or reach a certain limit on up to three accounts. First Direct will also send information about specific credits or debits -- including salary payments or everyday expenses. The service will be free for the first six months. Financial masochists can then pay £2.50 per month for the privilege. First Direct is running the scheme through the phones it started selling with Cellnet at the end of last year. Initially, the cellular service will only be available to customers who have bought these handsets. The bank, owned by HSBC Group, said it may branch out to other digital mobile phone owners by the end of 1999. A First Direct representative told The Register: "This is not a compulsory service, and it is entirely up the individual how to tailor it. It is designed to help our customers with their finances." Peter Simpson, First Direct commercial director, said: "We have taken another step towards our goal of giving customers full control of how they conduct their banking." ®

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