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Tesco is to launch a virtual banking service in connection with its online home-shopping service by expanding its Tesco Personal Finance (TPF) scheme, run jointly with Royal Bank of Scotland. Customers will be able to check balances, transfer money or apply for Tesco-branded mortgages online.

TPF now has over one million customers, cashing in on the Tesco brand name to pull in online business. It currently offers loans, credit cards, insurance policies and pensions.

"It is our link with the Tesco Web site that gives us a big advantage – as it attracts more customers so will we," Iain Clink, CEO at TPF told today's Financial Times. "And more importantly, the virtual supermarket, through brand loyalty and customer traffic, will have even lower customer acquisition costs than the real supermarket."

The plans co-coincided with TPF making a profit for the first time since its launch two years ago. It had previously made losses totalling £43 million.

"The big thing for us is that we have shown that the cross-selling works in the physical supermarkets sector – most of our financial customers have come to us from picking up leaflets in stores," said Clink. "Now that is working with the Internet as well. We know it is possible and we are going to build on that."

One in 10 of visitors to Tesco's Web site – which includes its cyber shopping business – look at its financial pages, the company said. Sir George Mathewson, CEO of Royal Bank of Scotland, said it cost less than £50 to acquire each new customer for the scheme. ®

If you want more sizzle with your fiscal sausgage, check out Cash Register and tune into the latest net finance news.

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