HSBC has seen a 55% growth in online business over the past year, with 1.8bn visits to its websites, the bank revealed at its annual general meeting.
In a trading update, chief executive Michael Geoghegan said the bank had made a good start to 2007, and noted the increasing trend towards online banking.
“More and more of our personal and commercial customers are seeing the benefits of buying online. Our websites handled 1.8bn visits last year, and online sales increased by 55%,” he said.
The increase in online business and customers’ demands for 24-hour service was leading the bank to focus on improving its direct propositions as an alternative to branch-based services, he added.
“We are building on the success of our direct savings proposition which has done so well in the US and the UK, and which we are now building in Taiwan and Korea,” Geoghegan said.
“These accounts are attracting new customers and new deposits to HSBC.
In a very real sense, we intend to build the first global direct bank where branches will also remain an important form of distribution but complemented by other channels, in response to our customers’ changing tastes.”
Geoghegan also announced a new global Premier service, now being trialled simultaneously in over 30 countries earlier this month. Describing the service as “the world’s local bank account”, he explained: “Premier offers customers seamless cross-border banking. They will be able to take their accounts, their credit history and banking relationships with them wherever they visit, live or work.”
The new portable account would be supported by a network of 250 dedicated Premier centres in major cities and thousands of service points in branches worldwide.
Geoghegan also said the bank’s recent £1.1bn head office sale and leaseback deal – the largest ever property deal in the UK – would offer “flexibility as technology changes the way people work” at the bank.
But despite its rising online business, HSBC has bucked the trend for introducing handheld card readers with two-factor identity authentication for online banking customers. Earlier this month, the bank said it would not issue the card readers to its personal banking customers.
In March, the banking giant HSBC – which has more than 9,500 branches employing 284,000 staff in 76 countries – made moves to consolidate its IT systems, by standardising its Linux deployments on Novell’s Suse distribution and tapping into Novell’s tie-up with Microsoft.