Rabobank.be is the first standalone Internet bank in Belgium. The launch comes at a potentially perilous time, given the collapse of many standalone Internet banking ventures across Europe. However, there may be some opportunities for the new bank – particularly if it can follow Egg’s example and build a technology edge over bricks-and-clicks rivals.
Dutch-based Rabobank has launched a standalone online bank in Belgium.
Dutch banking group Rabobank has launched a standalone online bank in Belgium, Rabobank.be. The new platform is Belgium’s first standalone online bank, and Rabobank’s first consumer-focused offering in Belgium.
The market for standalone Internet banks has been treacherous at best in the past 12 months. Worsening economic conditions have been replaced dotcom optimism with more tangible concepts such as profitability, return on investment and critical mass. Standalone banks such as Irish First-e and Danish Firstview, have folded, while Zurich has axed its UK-based online bank.
Needless to say, Rabobank.be will face an uphill battle. Successful standalone Internet banks are few and far between. UK-based Egg has managed to break into profitability, but it benefited from first mover advantage, deriving crucial differentiation from being an Internet-only bank. Even though Rabobank is also a first-mover in Belgium, it is unlikely to incur the same benefits as its British counterpart, given the death of Internet hype.
That said, there are still opportunities for Rabobank.be. The number of online banking customers is set to surge across Europe: Datamonitor estimates it will reach 75 million by 2005 from 49 million at the end of 2002. Uptake will be driven by rising familiarity and confidence in the Internet, and by less mature online banking markets catching up with more mature ones. Rabobank.be will need to capitalize on this growth potential to achieve viability.
Its success will also be contingent on using technology to create critical differentiation – and again, it would do well to look to Egg. Egg has benefited from its ability to maintain a technology edge, most recently becoming the first UK bank to launch a secure online account aggregation solution. It was also at the forefront of technology when it executed an open architecture strategy to sell third-party products.
Particularly as Rabobank.be is relatively late to market and lacks Egg’s initial benefits, it needs to use technology to create a differentiated offering if it is to carve a place for itself in the market.
Related research: Datamonitor, European eBanking Market Update (DMFS1538)
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