Leading Taiwan To The Net

For a nation that's so good at making tech products, Taiwan has been a Net laggard. One exception, though, is Chinatrust Commercial Bank, the country's largest nongovernment financial institution. Under the leadership of 35-year-old Jeffrey Koo Jr., Chinatrust has more than doubled its tech spending, to $48 million, since 1997, and has tripled its IT staff, to 340 people. In June, it became the first Taiwanese bank to offer online banking.

It's too soon to see bottom-line benefits. But Chinatrust expects Net-related cost savings and revenue growth within three years, when it aims to have half of its customers online. Analyst John Caparusso of Salomon Smith Barney predicts $32 million in savings by 2004, or up to 10% of pretax profits. With more innovators like Chinatrust, Taiwan could lead instead of lag.