Inside View: Importance of Online Banking

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Midsize corporations in North America are using their financial institutions' online banking services more often these days, according to survey findings released just as this issue was going to press. What's more, a significant number have begun to cite e-banking capabilities as a key factor in choosing which institution will get their business.

Greenwich Associates, an international research and consulting firm specializing in financial services, interviewed 500 corporate treasurers and other executives at middle-market companies in the United States and Canada this past May and June. The results showed that well over half of the businesses were already using their banks' Web sites, up substantially compared with 2000, while nearly 50% of the respondents said online offerings represent an important component of their banking relationships.

"One in five says they are actively directing more business to those banks with superior Internet banking capabilities," says Steve Busby, a consultant at the Greenwich, CT-based firm.

Greenwich Associates found that cash management has enjoyed the steepest gain in usage among midsize companies, up from 18% using the service in 2000 to about one-third in this year's survey. Busby says asset management services via the Web also rose appreciably, to 18% in the most recent survey vs. 10% last year.

In general, the consultants say, businesses' demand for Internet banking services exceeds what is available to them. The good news, however, is that most of the corporations say they enjoy substantial benefits from the offerings that are available.

About half say their banks' Web sites save them time, while 44% cite the convenience of being able to check their corporate account information online. And more than a third say they achieve greater productivity as a result of Internet banking.

The tepid economy may argue for delaying new Web banking projects, but it appears doing so may ultimately carry a much higher cost--at least for banks that value corporate clients.

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