Swedish bank makes move into UK online banking sector

Svenska Handelsbanken, Sweden’s largest bank, has launched an online operation in the UK.

The Internet bank offers private and corporate banking facilities, such as current and deposit accounts, loans, stockbroking and asset management.

Handelsbanken, which has offices in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Nottingham, recently launched a range of consumer banking services in the UK, including savings accounts, personal loans and mortgages.

The bank insists that its online operation is not intended as a rival to UK Internet banks such as the Prudential-owned Egg, Abbey National’s Cahoot and Smile, owned by the Co-operative Bank.

Ulf Sylvan, senior vice-president and head of the London branch of Handelsbanken, says: “We are not trying to sell our online service to new customers. It simply offers our existing UK customers a different medium through which to carry out their transactions.”

But analysts say competition from European online banks, attracted by the high profits in the UK market, will worry the country’s existing virtual banks, which are already fighting to survive in an increasingly crowded market.

Handelsbanken’s rival Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB) also plans to launch e-banking operations in the UK this year, following its merger with Swedbank, which was announced last week.

SEB, Sweden’s first Internet bank, went online in December 1996.

The bank recently signed a deal with mobile phone company Ericsson to produce a mobile banking service, which will enable customers to carry out transactions such as share trading, bill payment and fund transfers.

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