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In Profile: ICICI Bank

A newish entrant to the UK savings market is the relatively unknown ICICI Bank, which offers an online savings account. The HiSave account launched in June 2006, offering a market leading 5.4% on a starting balance of just 1.

Chief executive officer Fonjoy Chatterjee said ICICI had been taken by surprise by the demand for HiSave, after advertising the account for just one week in June. He said: "Our direct banking product is based on an internet banking platform in Mumbai. Our technology costs are arguably a 10th of that of a global bank. The back office processing is also out of Mumbai and we are passing this cost advantage on to the consumer. "

ICICI is India's second-largest bank, which has grown rapidly since the country partially deregulated its banking market in the early 1990s. It has 635 branches, assets of $57.8bn and thousands of ATMs across the sub-continent. ICICI Bank is the first Indian Company and the second bank from Asia to list on the New York Stock Exchange.

In Britain, it began trading in 2003 serving the Indian community but, in May last year, it launched an online savings account that gained 100,000 customers across the UK, outnumbering the original core Indian-customer base.

Account Features

  • The "Hi-Save" account guarantees that the rate will remain at least 0.25% above the Bank of England base rate until December 31, 2007.
  • The minimum deposit is just 1, with interest calculated daily, and no penalties for withdrawals.
  • All activities, including account opening, transacting and servicing are done online through Internet Banking.

    The major drawback is it hasn't signed up to the Banking Code, although it says it is applying.

    ICICI Bank is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority and savers are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.