30 May 2017

Pioneering internet banking in the UK – happy 20th anniversary

  • Nationwide launched the UK’s first internet bank in 1997, the same year as the first DVD was released
  • As a mutual, it’s vital for us to innovate in ways suitable for all our members – those who want to leap into the digital age, as well as those who prefer traditional banking methods.
  • In the next 20 years, we will see developments in biometrics, the advent of Open Banking, and more changes in the way members manage their finances.

Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it”. For those of you of a certain age this quote will mean something, and if it doesn’t then I strongly recommend you invest a couple of hours in a John Hughes’ classic. But this is not just me indulging in pointless 80s movie trivia; Saturday 27 May was an important date, our Internet Bank turned 20!

It’s easy to take for granted the things in our world that seem impossible to live without – cars, smartphones and the internet are some of the obvious ones. The list goes on. However, one major innovation that has made life more convenient is online banking.

1997 was a pretty big year, with Aqua introducing us to the Barbie World and Cool Britannia was at its peak- but it wasn’t all bad! That year also saw big advances for the world of technology, with the Digital Versatile Disk (DVD) being released, while Nationwide was the first organisation in the UK to launch an internet bank. It’s quite remarkable that something that is now so integral in our lives is only just reaching its 20th birthday.

The height of technology in 1997 - being able to bank at home, albeit on a rather large desktop with a loading duration of around 14 minutes - was a novelty that was enjoyed by 13,000 customers who registered in the first year. Fast forward two decades, and with over 5.5 million customers registered for mobile and online banking services, it’s astonishing how far we’ve come. Initially, current account customers could check their real-time balance (a big deal in 1997!), pay bills, view and print mini-statements, transfer money between accounts and order a full postal statement. Listing the features like this, it’s difficult not to be impressed with how much we could do all those years back - even if the pages took a long time to load!

"In the last few years, Nationwide has continued to develop digitally at a rapid pace, being one of the first financial institutions to utilise Apple Pay, and enhancing our mobile app to keep up with people’s lives, with the Quick Balance and Impulse Saver features."

While it’s clear we have come a long way since the slower processes of 1997, in some respects, things haven’t changed. We introduced the internet bank all those years ago to provide convenience to our members, and for this same reason, we continue to introduce updates and enhancements, like the launch of our new and improved award-winning banking app last year.

We are constantly learning from our members and I’m excited about where our mobile app is heading. In the next 20 years, we will see developments in biometrics, the advent of Open Banking, and fundamental changes in the way members manage their financial world. It could be easy to get carried away in this digital age, as it evolves so quickly, but ensuring that each innovative stride we make is for the convenience and benefit of our members is the most important rule. We have always listened and responded to the needs of our members. As a mutual, it’s vital for us to innovate in ways suitable for all our members – those who want to leap into the digital age, as well as those who prefer traditional banking methods.

It's quite a competitive field to be playing in and Nationwide is not the only organisation to be bringing out the latest in technology, so it’s certainly more important than ever to keep innovating. No provider can afford to stay still, but rest assured that we still have both the curiosity and determination to push the frontiers of innovation in the interest of our members.

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About the author

James Smith

James Smith is Nationwide’s Director of Mobile & Digital, responsible for the design, delivery and service of our Digital Products that engage our members and make it easier for colleagues to serve members.

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