Author:de la Sierra, Mimi Cauley
Position:Automated banking

FORGET THE TRAFFIC. FORGET FINDING A PARKing space. Forget the long lines and all the other headaches of going to a bank in Mexico City. Banco IXE, Mexico's virtual bank, is well on its way to fulfilling its slogan as the "bank of convenience."

Since launching services three years ago, the bank boasts 30,000 clients and assets topping US$320 million. Banco IXE relies on a unique mix of the Internet, telephony and courier service to offer flexibility on how, when and where clients do their banking. On average, such convenience is attracting 40 new clients each day.

IXE singled out working professionals for its checking, savings and investment accounts because Mexico's household computer penetration is quite small. However, says Raul Triay, director of electronic banking and product development at IXE, most white-collar workers have access to computers and the Internet at their desks. Only about a tenth of account holders rely solely on Internet banking, but that segment is growing the fastest.

With rising popularity, competition in Internet banking services is heating up, with both Banamex, one of the nation's largest banks, and mid-sized Bital offering rival services. But, says Triay, "we have a very targeted market focus. We are not after every bank account. At most banks in Mexico, a person can open an account with a few hundred pesos. The minimum required deposit for banking with us is 20,000 pesos [US$2,000]."

The nascent network cost over $10 million to build. Starting from scratch had its advantages. "Many of the larger Mexican banks have thousands of branches, with different information...

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