Bank of Scotland and BT have announced plans to form a strategic alliance to offer tailored online banking, technology and e-business services to small and medium-sized enterprises throughout the UK.
The alliance brings together Bank of Scotland's expertise in direct business banking and BT's SME communications solutions, and will be the first time such a package has been available to UK small businesses.
To be launched in early May, the service will be marketed via a joint website, and be aimed at businesses currently using the Internet, as well as those wishing to join the e-commerce race. The initial offering will include competitively priced internet-enabled computer systems with pre-loaded e-business software including BT Connect2Business and BT Access.
Bank of Scotland will provide a direct business banking service on the Internet, as well as over the telephone. The service will include interest-bearing cheque accounts, overdraft facilities, asset finance, deposit facilities, credit cards, business insurance and invoice discounting and factoring services.
The package will include an optional induction session when the system is installed, as well as an online Internet training programme and advice on business issues. A help-desk will be available to answer ongoing technology queries. Mobile phone internet access via BT Cellnet using WAP technology will also be offered, allowing small business owners access to the world-wide-web and their banking details, wherever they are.
More online services oriented towards the broader business needs of Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) will be introduced over the coming months.
Mike Langston, director, BT's SMEs, said the alliance was the next step in BT's push to provide a range of effective, easy-to-use technology and e-business solution.
"We have hundreds of thousands of SME business customers, and we spend a lot of time listening to their problems and researching issues they will face trying to move their businesses forward,” Langston said.
“By packaging up the technology, software and know-how, as well as a support system to keep them on track, we believe we can offer the simplest, most cost-effective route to getting onto the Internet and into the e-business race. Partnering with the Bank of Scotland now brings our SME customers benefits in the form of more efficient and accessible banking solutions."
Colin Matthew, Bank of Scotland's chief executive of business banking, said the alliance was in line with the bank's mission to provide innovative solutions for the UK's SME community.
“We believe this combined service will be the natural choice for businesses wishing to use the internet not only to run and grow their business, but also administer their financial needs.”