Switzerland's largest life insurer, Swiss Life, has swum against the tide of Internet failures by launching redsafe.com, a financial services portal.
With an investment of some SFr75 million ($43.68 million) in the project, redsafe.com is the first integrated online financial services company in Switzerland.
"You can do everything which matters in your personal financial life on one platform, including banking transactions, brokerage, buying investment funds and taking out insurance," Redsafe Bank chief market officer Michael Brockhaus told swissinfo.
"There are also a couple of tools to support you with advice in the decision-making process," he added.
Opened on December 17 with a staff of 50, the platform has already attracted 600 - 700 clients and there are "a lot" of people in the account-opening process, according to Brockhaus.
"We still believe there is a market and a market potential for online personal financial services, especially in the integrated way we offer them. That means giving convenience, having a lot of transparency and on top of that fair pricing," he explained.
Alliances and partnerships with various providers make a wide range of products available to clients. Redsafe Bank cooperates closely with the cantonal bank of Zurich, Credit Suisse, UBS, Pictet, Fondvest, Profitline, Swissca, Basel Insurance Company and La Suisse. As an example the offering includes more than 3,000 mutual funds.
Redsafe.com offers direct access to six major stock markets: the Swiss Stock Exchange in Zurich, Xetra in Frankfurt, the New York Stock Exchange, Nasdaq and Amex markets in the United States, as well as virt-x in London.
Measure of success
Asked how success will be measured, Brockhaus explained that this would be determined both on client numbers and their level of activity -- that means their turnover.
"Success means that we reach breakeven in our third year in 2004, that we should have 55,000 clients by then, that we have SFr1,000 franc revenue per customer and about SFr33,000 of assets under management per customer," Brockhaus told swissinfo.
Available only to residents of Switzerland for the time being, redsafe.com is a Swiss bank regulated by the Federal Banking Commission. There are plans to expand into selected European countries in the medium term.
Redsafe.com offers its services in four languages - German, French, Italian and English, with a news service thrown in.
In principle, the bank's advisory services are online but a communication centre is also available to clients.
Brockhaus told swissinfo that clients should have no concerns about the security of their data going online.
"I think you can sleep at night because security is of course the number one priority in doing business online," he said.
"We use the most advanced technology to make sure we cover all the security issues. It's also user-friendly because you have a user name, a password and for each session you have to give in a special number which identifies you as the customer," he added.
by Robert Brookes
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