Would you get financial advice over a webcam?


AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

Bank Austria, a member of UniCredit Group and Austria's largest financial institution, has chosen to offer online consultancy services via webcam to its customers.

But offering financial advice over the internet in such a way must have some complications, and how many of us would really be happy to do it?
Roman Chromik, head of mass market at Bank Austria says; "We aim to offer our customers all available communication channels to get in contact with us. Using online meetings, our customers are able to say, 'I would like a thorough consultation, but whenever and wherever it suits me.'"
OK, so it's convenient. You can talk to someone whenever you like from the comfort of your front room. Perhaps you might even feel more comfortable making decisions whilst in a familiar environment.

Maybe we feel more under pressure when we're in a bank or financial institution to act on their advice and come away with something concrete, so in that sense it could be a good idea.
"The advantage is its ease of use," says Thomas Schwella, project co-ordinator in the SmartBanking Innovation Team. "Our customers don't need any specific prior knowledge, no installation is required and everyone can simply join an online meeting at a click of a button. From my point of view, the user experience is great."

Easy too. But what if it seems quite impersonal? Surely there's a comfort in going into your branch to talk with someone face to face. And after the onset of the banking crisis, so many of our high street banks have made a point of advertising the 'personal approach' - more help in-branch, and a real emphasis on customer service.

Of course aside from all that, there's the very real worry of security. Would you really feel comfortable talking about the intricate details of your savings, mortgage, pension plan and whatever else over the internet? I know I wouldn't.

It seems a step too far - an unnecessary extra bit of technology that none of us really want. The only people I can imagine using such a service are high-flying city workers who could chat to their adviser from their desk at the top of some glass office tower.