A consortium of the country's four largest banking institutions has announced its intention to form an electronic portal for the online distribution of financial products and services.
Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ), Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), National Australia Bank (NAB) and Westpac plan to form an independent company to operate and manage a portal which will act as a single access point for users to choose financial services.
The portal, AusMarkets.com, will also be an information point for research, rates and news on financial markets. It will initially offer money market and debt securities products in the first half of 2001, and move into interest rate derivatives and foreign exchange products on a modular basis as the portal matures.
AusMarkets.com representative David Hornery said initial discussions have been held regarding the development of the portal, but was not able to reveal who was doing the work.
"The details of how the portal is to be developed will be announced in the not too distant future," he said.
"Suffice it to say, we have some idea of what it will take in a technical sense to deliver this business model."
Hornery said the technical development would begin after the appointment of AusMarket.com's chief executive, which the banks are now seeking. The portal is also subject to the regulatory approval of the Australian Com-petition and Consumer Commission. ACCC spokesperson Lin Enright said the only issue they are concerned about in the short term is whether the four banks will open up the portal to other players. She said the ACCC would make a decision as soon as the banks reply to the ACCC requests for further information.
"We have to ensure there is competition in this area - that it doesn't become a closed system," she said. "We will be contacting the participants to ensure there is access to all financial institutions, not just the four banks."
According to Hornery, the ACCC should find no issues with the portal, as he is quite clear about the involvement of additional institutions.
"This is going to be based on an open architecture," he said. "While the four banks have done some of the initial work, all will be invited to contribute. Its success depends on customers - a greater number of suppliers means more competitive pressure on price and more customers using the services."