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Internet

Many could bank online, but don't

The number of potential users of online banking and investing rises to nearly one quarter of U.S. households, but the actual use remains much lower, says a study.

The number of potential users of online banking and investing has risen to nearly one quarter of U.S. households, but the actual use remains much lower, according to a study released today by SRI Consulting.

Only about 7 percent of U.S. households have ever used online home banking, and only 3 percent have used or use investing, the study concluded.

"The wide gap between the actual and the potential market implies that although financial institutions may have few problems marketing to early adopters, attracting the next layer of financial users--the market followers--remains a challenge," said Larry Cohen, director of SRI Consulting's Financial Decisions group in a statement.

The survey took two years to complete and covered nearly 4,000 U.S. households.

It is another example of the great promise of the Net, but also a reminder of the difficult challenge of trying to meet those lofty expectations--whether it be with online investing, high-speed Internet access, or e-commerce.

Online banking and investing offers many conveniences for consumers, but many of them also worry about security and reliability issues.

Some banks have found that the Net has helped revitalize their business, however. For example, Fidelity First Bank is changing its name to iBank and building its entire banking Internet software structure on Internet technologies. (See related story)