I’m 28 years old. My mother had me when she was my age; colleagues
younger than I am have husbands and mortgages. Surely I can execute a
little account-jiggling on my own? All the new internet banks advertise
themselves as being able to provide more than a little account-handling
beef. Is it curtains, then, for the high street?
Off to my own bank’s website, Firstdirect.com, first. The site is
on-brand and beautifully integrated with the whole black and white
But at the first screen (on which the menu options jump around
annoyingly) my first - and fundamental - problem occurs. You can’t bank
on the internet if you work on an Apple Macintosh. Despite First Direct
having promised for months that the Mac system is ’just a couple of
months away’ I have yet to see evidence of this evolution.
Undeterred, I thought I should go for the demo anyway - who knows, we
publishing types might all go PC one day. On entering, I am shown a
picture of an operator looking caring and attentive - a nice touch. The
rest of the process is what I imagine when I’m using telephone banking:
clear black and white screens with clearly laid-out information in, yes,
black and white.
The only minus point was my attempt to (as invited) e-mail them asking
when Mac banking would be available. I was told my query would take
seven to ten working days to answer. Sheesh ...
Next up, www.smile.co.uk. This is much more cheerful, although when my
eyeballs are seared with an array of primary colours I can see a grey
suit wishing to be ’wacky’ written all over it.
Never mind. The plain English and friendly language on the front pages
is engaging, which makes it all the more interesting to find that the
banking part of the site is in grown-up grey stripes. I can’t help but
feel duped by the designers into switching from carefree surfer into a
business-head who wants lots of expensive loans. But this is strangely
reassuring. I think this is the most tempting site so far.
I’ve seen First-e advertised extensively, so I decide to give it a
It’s horrid, written in fluent European and utterly grown-up (maybe it’s
more for business users). I give up straight away. Even our internet
editor’s speedy PC isn’t fast enough for this site.
Two high street banks are also shoving the online message down our
throats: NatWest and Barclays. NatWest’s nasty colours put me off
quickly and the demo wasn’t as smooth as First-e’s or smile’s. Barclays
wasn’t bad, even though the picture of the woman standing by the sea on
the front page looks as though she is trying to keep the tide at bay -
like me trying to keep my credit cards at bay.
I’m not convinced by the high street’s new-media capabilities. It’s
service with a smile.co.uk for me, I think.