High street bank Barclays today unveiled plans to invest £325m in ecommerce ventures this year, including the launch next month of a small business portal in partnership with Freeserve.
Other initiatives scheduled for launch before the end of the year include its new integrated retail financial portal, a new release of personal online banking products and a real-time share dealing service.
Barclays' total investment is up £145m from last year's total of £180m on ecommerce initiatives. The bank claims to have one million online customers.
Matt Barrett, Barclays' chief executive, said: "Our objective is to use technology to develop entirely new business models that allow us to deliver superior value to the customer, while transforming our internal infrastructure to make us more efficient and effective. Any strategy that doesn't achieve both is fundamentally flawed and will have difficulty meeting the extraordinary challenges we face."
The small business portal, which has seen several Barclays staff move to the internet company, is 60 per cent owned by Freeserve and 40 per cent by Barclays. The service goes live next month, but ongoing development plans mean it won't be fully operational until July.
Features of the planned portal include communications products and community tools, advice on sales and marketing, ecommerce (including domain name registration), employment issues, accounting, tax and law, human resources, payroll management, IT skills and finance.
It will also host MarketPlace, Freeserve's e-store operation, and Barclays' small business customers will be able to access their accounts online.
Elsewhere in the financial world, two more hi-tech flotations have been scrapped at the last minute. Internet infrastructure company Telecity has dropped plans that would have valued it at a reported £700m, while telco Project Telecom has pulled the plug on its scheduled £250m float. Cazenove & Co, Project Telecom's brokers, blamed the renewed weakness in hi-tech stocks for the decision.
Some 15 per cent of value has been wiped off the London Stock Exchange's Techmark 100 index in the last five days.
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