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Czechs go electronic

George Jedlicka, managing director and chairman of Expandia Finance finds it hard to call Tomas Pardubicky, his colleague, Mr Pardubicky, as formality demands. It's understandable: Pardubicky is a fresh-faced 23-year-old who has been at Expandia just a year and confesses that he is still finishing a university degree. With a laugh, Jedlicka gives up, and reverts to the more familiar Tomas.

Pardubicky says that at 47 Jedlicka is the grandfather of Expandia Bank, undoubtedly the most youthful bank in the Czech Republic. Operational since May 1, it is the republic's first, and to date only, bank offering services solely via the internet and phone.

It's a radical step in a market dogged by outdated IT systems and poor customer service, and there is little to connect the modern glass-and-steel office building housing Expandia with the imposing facades of Zivnostenska Banka and CSOB, visible out of Jedlicka's office window. As he observes: "We don't have these beautiful stone buildings all over the republic. But we can do transactions cheaper and faster. We're looking to find a niche and utilize it."

The hi-tech bank is a departure for the Expandia Group, which had focused on investment banking and fund management.

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