ING Direct marked its first birthday on Wednesday, but there were no celebrations at the Toronto bank's branches-because it does not have any.
The $587 million-asset subsidiary of $450 billion-asset ING Group in the Netherlands has no brokers either. It consists of a call center and a Web site-and has opened 60,000 accounts.
Canada's first "direct bank" operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. On average the 65 customer service representatives receive 2,000 calls and open 400 accounts a day.
Canadians have been receptive to such service, said Grant MacKenzie, the bank's vice president of credit. They live in a fast-changing technical culture where financial distribution channels are proliferating and there are more electronic than paper transactions. And though Canada has one- tenth of the population of the United States, it carries out more debit transactions.
Most of ING Direct's customers are 30 to 54, in the middle income bracket, urban, and well-educated, said Mr. MacKenzie last week at the Bank Administration Institute's conference in San Diego on direct banking. The average ING Direct account has a $13,800 balance, more than four times the amount expected, he said.
These customers demand convenience, seek flexible products to meet changing financial conditions, and are open to new technologies and to new delivery channels, he said.
"We're attempting to establish value with quality products at discount rates," Mr. MacKenzie said.
There are no fees on the bank's Investment Savings Account, and there is no minimum deposit requirement. The interest rate is a high 4.25%.
A soon-to-be-released Loan Account will have a 7.25% rate. Telephone approval will come within 15 minutes, Mr. MacKenzie said, and funds will be available by debit card. There will be no penalty for early repayment.
The direct bank was built on Sanchez Computer Associates' Profile/Anyware system; the computer company said the job was done in just in three months. The system was chosen because "it offers the ability to implement the direct banking approach to any market anywhere in the world quickly," Mr. MacKenzie said.