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Ireland's first internet-only bank opens

'A higher rate without penalties, fees or charges'

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RaboDirect, a subsidiary of the Dutch online bank Rabobank, launched Ireland's first completely online bank yesterday.

The Dutch banking giant, which entered the Irish market in 1994 through an office in the Irish Financial Services Centre (IFSC), made its mark on the Irish market when it bought ACC Bank in 2002.

The bank will target Irish consumers with a purely internet bank, called RaboDirect.ie, which will initially offer a no-fee, no-charge deposit account with interest rates of three per cent - almost 10 times the standard rate, the bank said. There will be no minimum or maximum deposit and no penalties for early withdrawals.

The bank will also offer Irish consumers the chance to invest in the managed funds market, with accounts with Robeco and Merrill Lynch that can be opened with around €100.

Advertising itself as a "straight talking" bank, RaboDirect's customer care centre will be based in Charlemont Place in Dublin 2 with opening hours of from 8 am to 8 pm Monday to Friday and from 10 am to 5 pm on Saturdays. To make lodgements customers can transfer their funds from their primary bank account to their RaboDirect savings account. Likewise, to make a withdrawal, customers can electronically transfer funds from their RaboDirect account to any other Irish bank account.

RaboDirect has also been quick to stress the security of its online banking offering. Online transactions with RaboDirect use a security system called the Digipass, which operates in such a way that the customer's online access code changes every 36 seconds. This type of system is in common usage worldwide but up until this point had not been available in Ireland, the bank said.

In launching in Ireland the bank hopes to target what it calls "a clear gap between the financial products and services currently available and what the public want," said Greg McAweeney, general manager of RaboDirect, speaking at the launch.

"As a virtual bank without the overheads of the more traditional bricks and mortar banks, we have many distinct advantages, which underpin our ability to consistently offer a higher rate without penalties, fees or charges. Our aim is to be the best buy by focusing on a competitive rate as well as being convenient, simple and transparent. In addition since we are not publicly quoted we are not shareholder driven and as a result all profits go into reserves, which in turn can be used to pay top level interest rates," McAweeney added.

Rabobank, which has been in operation for 10 years, has 1.9m customers in the Netherlands and 36,000 people with combined savings of more than €900m in Belgium.

Copyright © 2005, ENN

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