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Click, click - you're dead

Banks, like priests before them, have survived in part because of their monopoly of information and access. The internet is changing all that. As Steven Irvine argues, the data and choices that can be accessed with a mouse click must mean the death of banks as we know them.

Before the printing press, the priests of the Catholic Church had a monopoly over Latin and thus controlled the spiritual currency of the western world, the Bible. Cheap, locally translated bibles changed all that and the priests lost a lot of power within a century.

What is happening with banks and the internet is very similar. For the banks read the Catholic Church and for the future read the cheap locally translated bibles that the internet will bring.

A host of new internet banking institutions will upset the position conventional banks have had for the past 150 years.

Most conventional banks have an internet strategy in some shape or form, but most of these are also essentially defensive or half-hearted. The most forward-thinking, and by definition the best defensive strategy, is Bank One's. It has launched a separate stand-alone internet bank called WingspanBank.com.

Its motto says it all: "If your bank could start over, this is what it would be."

WingspanBank.com points to the shape of things to come. With low costs - and none of those branches - it is able to offer consumers a quid pro quo. It lowers costs by taking away the branch and shares the gain with its customers.

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