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More banks to offer on-line forex Back  
Following Ulster Bank’s announcement of plans to launch an on-line foreign exchange dealing service, both AIB and Bank of Ireland have confirmed that they will be offering a similar service to corporate clients before the end of the year. All three of the major domestic banks view the development of online services as a current priority and all are keen to emphasise their commitment to making the corporate treasurer’s life easier.

Ulster Bank’s latest service, TraderGold will, according to group treasurer Declan O’Neill, ‘add a new dimension to foreign exchange dealing in Ireland’, allowing ‘instantaneous dealing capabilities in a secure, cost-efficient environment’. The service, developed in conjunction with CSK Software, will be made available to ten clients over ‘the next couple of months’, according to the company, with the expectation that ‘a substantial number of customers will be accessing the service by the end of 2000’.

AIB’s commitment to making a name for itself in technology was made clear by group chief executive Tom Mulcahy in AIB’s 1999 Annual report. In his review, Mulcahy outlined the bones of AIB’s internet strategy and pointed towards ‘creating new start-ups and forming fresh alliances’. This was echoed this week by John Rice, chief dealer with AIB Corporate and Commercial Treasury who told Finance that banks should have a both a global and a domestic perspective when it comes to an internet strategy. ‘The global environment is where the real value will be added. In the foreign exchange market for example, look at the Barclays and Charles Schwab alliance - they can get into each other’s customer chain. We’re constantly looking at projects and partnerships’.

On the operational level, Rice says that corporate customers tend to be reluctant to leave the telephone behind when it comes to trading. ‘The normal distribution channel for corporate foreign exchange has been the telephone - clients prefer to negotiate in person’. Rice points to Sweden, where online trading has been available for the last few years, but where clients ‘still come on the phone for advice’. Nonetheless, rice says that ‘you need to have web enablement in terms of your overall distribution kit’

Colm Healy, head of corporate business at Bank of Ireland Treasury, says that Bank of Ireland already has an internet-based cash management system and that the bank is currently ‘developing that further’ to give treasury functionality ‘up to and including online dealing’. Healy agrees with John Rice, saying that the telephone is still the major dealing tool. ‘We’re working with customers on this and the feedback we’re getting is that online dealing is a ‘nice to have’ rather than an ‘essential’’, he says.

‘The overriding concern for treasurers is their own internal treasury management services’, says Healy, ‘and next, it’s electronic banking’. What’s important and what really makes a difference is very good people’. Healy welcomes ways to make the corporate treasurer’s life easier, but says that online dealing is ‘lower down the list than other things’, such as administration or cash management’.

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