The portal, the vortal and the financial be-all-and-end-all

We like banking online, but how much?

We like banking online, but how much?

It's official - the UK likes online banking. According to the latest figures from NetValue, an internet monitoring company, five million Britons used banking websites in July. Just six months ago the figure stood at 3.8 million. But it is tempting to dig deeper and ask how we bank online. Many net users are the proud owners of multiple usernames and passwords, sometimes several dozen. Many of these codes are for financial services sites. The writer of this article has a bank account online, a flexible mortgage, a savings account, a cash ISA and credit cards - all from different suppliers. This situation can be somewhat frustrating, to say the least. Step forward a solution - one net user's problem being another's market opportunity and all that. Respected financial organisations such as Citibank are touting financial aggregation services. Such portals already claim several million users in the US, lured by the promise of a secure one-page display of their entire financial goings on. The key, it seems, is for users to give up their log-ins and passwords to a single, trusted provider, who brings all the information together via some clever back-end technology. It sounds convenient, and the money is on a similar trend in Europe. Yet there are some obvious problems. Even consumers not alarmed at giving up all their darkest password secrets are likely to use banks and other providers who will point to small print allowing them to wash their hands of any fraudulent dealings once supposedly hush-hush information is voluntarily given up - whether it's to another financial services firm or not. The NetValue survey also found the number of banking sites visited by UK users has decreased from 83 to 62 over the past half-year. Don't count on that trend continuing because of aggregation services. Best of breed may just work for IT systems, but when it comes to financial services, a laborious trawl from one site to another may still be necessary for some time.