TORONTO - Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce said the minister of finance had approved a bank charter for its Amicus electronic commerce unit.

Amicus partners with companies that have trusted brands, and uses their delivery channels to reach customers. Launched about three years ago, it has attracted 456,000 new electronic banking customers, is adding about 25,000 a month, and hopes to have a total of 750,000 by the end of 2001, with all the U.S. customers and 80% of the Canadian new to Canadian Imperial.

Brian Cassidy, chief executive officer of Amicus, said Monday that teaming up with leading companies allows it to use their strong customer relationships. "We avoid the high marketing costs of creating brand awareness and the high costs of building a branch network," he said.

Amicus' first alliance was with the Canadian supermarket Loblaw Companies Ltd. in February 1998 to create President's Choice Financial Services, which offers no-fee personal banking with competitive rates and rewards. It recently announced alliances with Investors Group, Great-West Life, and London Life.

Amicus operates in the United States through Safeway Inc. in the West and Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. in the Southeast.

The company also has an alliance with the Internet portal Yahoo Inc., to offer consumers PayDirect, an online person-to-person payment service.

CIBC has nearly 800,000 Internet banking customers in addition to those of Amicus.

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