, an online extension of the 24-hour direct banking operation owned by HSBC, went live yesterday with none of the humiliating glitches that beset the launches of many rivals. Its offering includes current and savings accounts, credit cards and personal loans.

The newcomer takes on a number of established online banks including Prudential's Egg and Abbey National's Cahoot. According to a First Direct spoke, the aim is to build on the success of its phone-based business which attracted over one million customers in ten years.

Towards the end of next month, customers will be able to use WAP-enabled mobile phones and Apple Macs as well as PCs to access their accounts.

News source: BBC Online Business News (UK)