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Internet and competitive advantage: an empirical study of UK retail banking sector

By Qing Amie Porter


There is wide agreement that the Internet has had a significant impact on the retail banking sector. However, no consensus has formed as to whether the Internet can provide retail banks with competitive advantage and if so, whether this competitive advantage is sustainable. \ud This research project examines the provision of Internet usage in the UK retail banking sector. The goals of this study are threefold: 1) to explore the notion of "competitive advantage" in retail banking, 2) to understand why managers of retail banks invest in the Internet and what they consider are the advantages of Internet banking and 3) to ascertain why some managers of retail banks are more convinced of the benefits of the Internet as a generator of competitive advantage than others and whether this relates to the characteristics of their bank and/or its Internet strategies. \ud A model of the use of the Internet in retail banking was developed. An analysis framework, based on the competitive advantage that the use of the Internet may produce, was also built up. In addition, a combination of qualitative and quantitative methodologies was utilised. Interviews were formulated and undertaken in order to extend the findings in the extant literature, and to further confirm and refine the theoretical framework of this study. Then utilising the results of the interviews, a survey was conducted and 151 senior managers responded. The responding mangers came from both small and large retail banks and, in addition, from building societies. They held a variety of different positions within their organisations. \ud The thesis produced a number of significant findings. The concept of `competitive advantage' was defined in the UK retail banking sector. Key factors that provide retail banks with competitive advantage were identified; namely; "differentiation", "cost leadership" and "product uniqueness". These resembled Porter's generic strategies, however, the results rejected his concept of the "stuck-in-the-middle" competitive situation. He had indicated that an integrated strategy using more than one form of competitive advantage is likely to fail to achieve advantage. The results indicate that combined strategies are not only possible, but are likely to be the most successful overall Internet strategy for retail banking firms to pursue. \ud The research concluded that the size and type of retail bank has direct impact on Internet strategy. Managers' perceptions of competitive advantage provided by the Internet is affected, both by the characteristics of their firms, and also by the Internet strategies that their banks employed. Internet strategies are confirmed to be mediation variables and have a good fit with the resource based view. This indicates that resource and core competences are crucial to the decision about which Internet strategies to employ to achieve maximum competitive advantage. The research therefore found that, in the Internet arena, the market-based view and the resource based perspective of competitive advantage may be seen as complementary as they are concerned with different domains (i. e. external and internal respectively). \ud However when considering the issue of sustainability, a hypercompetitive view is more appropriate. It suggests that constantly being flexible, innovative and quickly responding to the changing environment are the foundations required for firms to achieve sustainable competitive advantage. Further, a number of issues were identified to be important for the future of Internet banking

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OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:2846

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