Forrester Research Inc. has concluded that on-line financial services will evolve slowly in Europe, as countries such as France and the United Kingdom struggle to remove technological and cultural obstacles.

A recent report by Forrester said nearly 10 million Europeans will seek financial guidance via the Internet by 2002. It said that to attract customers on-line and sell products and services in new ways, firms must move beyond basic transactions and focus on the overall customer relationship, providing objective advice to help consumers make informed financial decisions, regardless of the service provider.

"Consumers will be drawn to firms that help them map their financial future," said Cliff Condon, director of new media analysis with Forrester's European Research Center in Amsterdam. "This means that financial sites will need to offer insights on how the euro will affect consumers' financial health, prepare them for the introduction of more sophisticated products, and deliver the right products at the right time."

Despite the pioneering of sites from Spain's La Caixa, Scandinavia's SwedBank, and Luxembourg's Fortis, Forrester expects Switzerland and Germany to take the lead in the development of on-line financial services, typified by UBS and Commerzbank.

It sees U.K. institutions delayed by concerns about "channel conflict" and exaggerated hopes for interactive television, and French banks by a reluctance to wean themselves off the service-charge revenue from Minitel terminals.

Forrester said that by 2002 a more open environment for on-line financial services will make pan-European strategies possible.

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