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Halifax tries to patent banking system

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The Halifax has announced details about its soon-to-be-launched e-bank. At the heart of the service from Intelligent Finance (IF) - a division of Halifax plc - is the patent-pending Intelligent Banking, described by the bank as a "unique money management system". According to IF, the Intelligent Banking system will connect between customers' different financial products in order to maximise the interest on their savings or minimise the interest on their borrowings. Intelligent Banking makes customers' money work harder, the company claims, and will even notify punters automatically by e-mail if their current account balance falls below 100, or when their salary is paid in. By using Intelligent Banking, IF reckons it can save customers an average of 750 a year. Jim Spowart, CE, Intelligent Finance, said: "Consumers have been telling us that this is too good to be true. From July, it's a reality. It's Intelligent Finance." The e-bank reckons its new service is so hot, so dotcom exciting, that it needs to be patented. No doubt it feels it is performing some public service - protecting this new product from other banks because it is just too hot to handle. Critics, though, have condemned the bank's secretive approach. The Halifax became the subject of ridicule when it announced IF in February, but refused to tell anyone about it. IF is to be launched in July and promoted direct via a network of independent financial advisers. Some 10,000 people have already signed up to the service and IF reckons it will attract two million by the end of 2004. "The business has a 15 per cent target return on capital after tax and is expected to move into profit by its third year of operation," the e-bank said today. Elsewhere, as part if a deal with BT Cellnet, IF is to offer do-WAP-a-diddy-diddy phone to its first 150,000 customers so they can bank on the move. Given the shortage of WAP phones in the UK, signing up with IF looks like the easiest way to secure one of the beasts over the next couple of months. ®

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