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Businesses are showing a greater willingness to bank via the internet and switch account provider, according to a study by The Institute of Chartered Accountants and Alliance & Leicester Commercial Bank.

Around half of businesses (49%) are more willing than 12 months ago to bank online and over a third (37%) indicated a greater propensity to review banking costs.

Furthermore, one in five (21%) say they are more likely than a year ago to switch current account provider and almost the same number (18%) are ready to look outside of the 'Big Four'.

The findings come from the Business Confidence Monitor conducted by The Institute of Chartered Accountants in conjunction with Alliance & Leicester Commercial Bank. More than 1,000 Chartered Accountants - those closest to the financial heart of business - were asked how they felt businesses use of banking services had changed over the last 12 months. They were asked to consider business use of internet banking, banking costs, willingness to change provider and use of non-'Big Four' banks.

Sectoral Findings:

More than half (55%) of the accountants working in the Retail & Wholesale sector - either directly or via their practices - reported an increase in the use of internet banking and one in two (49%) believe there has been a greater willingness to review banking costs in the last 12 months than previously.

Almost a quarter (23%) thought they had become more willing to change current account provider - and exactly the same proportion are more likely to look outside of the 'Big Four' for their banking.

Claire Bulman, Head of Marketing at Alliance & Leicester Commercial Bank, said: "Retailers typically have to pay much higher bank charges than other businesses because they bank more cash and cheques, and process a lot more plastic card payments. It is not surprising then that they are keenest to review their banking arrangements.

"While other sectors have historically been reticent about switching, these findings suggest firms are increasingly willing to weigh up the alternatives open to them."

In Manufacturing, a greater willingness to bank online was noted by 45% of respondents. Nearly one in five (19%) is more likely to change current account provider than 12 months ago and 32% have seen a growing focus on banking costs with 15% indicated growing interest in using a non-'Big Four' bank.

Construction & Engineering is on a par with retail & wholesale when it comes to considering competitors to the 'Big Four' - with 23% increasingly seeing this as an option. A similar number (22%) have seen a greater willingness to change current account provider and nearly twice this number (41%) are more inclined to review banking costs. Greater use of internet banking was reported by 53%.

The figure for internet banking in Banking, Finance & Insurance is slightly higher at 54%. While 34% are more likely to review their banking costs than 12 months ago, one in five (21%) are more likely to change provider, with 20% more willing to look at one of the non-'Big Four' banks.

In the Information Technology sector, only 13% are more willing to look outside of the largest four banks. However, 22% are more likely to change provider and 35% are increasingly likely to review costs. Use of internet banking has increased according to 53% of respondents.

Claire Bulman said: "One in five businesses are now both more willing to switch provider than they were 12 months ago and to consider alternatives to the 'Big Four' when they do.

"This is encouraging news for providers such as Alliance & Leicester Commercial Bank and a trend which we hope will continue as businesses increasingly turn to non-traditional methods of banking such as the internet."

- ENDS -

Alliance & Leicester Press Office 0116 200 3355

For further information about the UK Business Confidence Monitor, and the ICAEW research program, please contact:

Leslie Sopp Institute of Chartered Accountants 020 7920 8738

Photographs of Claire Bulman, Head of Marketing at Alliance & Leicester Commercial Bank, can be downloaded from http:// (type claire bulman in keyword box) or sent via e-mail on request

Prints are available from the Press Office

Notes to Editors:

The UK Business Confidence Monitor is produced by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales in partnership with Alliance & Leicester Commercial Bank, the business banking and finance arm of Alliance & Leicester. It is unique in that it specifically polls the opinion of over 1,000 Chartered Accountants - the people closest to the financial heart of business.

The research was conducted by the Research Centre of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW), in conjunction with Alliance & Leicester Commercial Bank, and with assistance from Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR). The findings reported in this release were taken from the Quarter 2 monitor undertaken in July 2003.

1,088 Chartered Accountants responded to an online questionnaire. Businesses were categorised in terms of size (no. of employees), regional location and sector. The UK data was re-weighted using the respective shares of Gross Value Added of each sector from the Blue book national accounts data.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW) is the largest professional accountancy body in Europe, with more than 124,000 members. Three thousand new members qualify each year. The prestigious qualifications offered by the Institute are recognised around the world and allow members to call themselves Chartered Accountants and to use the designatory letters ACA or FCA.

The ICAEW operates under a Royal Charter, working in the public interest. Its primary objectives are to educate and train Chartered Accountants, to maintain high standards for professional conduct among members, to provide services to its members and students, and to advance the theory and practice of accountancy.

Alliance & Leicester Commercial Bank is a market leader in cash management, handling about 25% of High Street cash. It has cash depositing facilities located within a mile of 95% of all UK enterprises. It offers businesses of all sizes very competitively priced banking and specialist financial services, including asset finance, credit/debit card processing and bill payment facilities.

Alliance & Leicester Commercial Bank was awarded "Best Business Current Account Provider" by Business Moneyfacts in March 2003. Among the accounts highlighted rated in Business Moneyfacts' surveys is Alliance & Leicester Commercial Bank's Cash Based Business Current Account, which has a monthly standard charge of only £2.00 and charges of only 75p per transaction (turnover up to £500,000 - negotiated packages available for businesses with a £500,000-plus turnover).

This press release was distributed by ResponseSource Press Release Wire on behalf of Alliance and Leicester in the following categories: Consumer Technology, Personal Finance, Business & Finance, Computing & Telecoms, for more information visit