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The Aggregated Man

We are, it appears, leading an increasingly aggregated existence. It wasn’t so long ago that searching for an item of interest, a mortgage offer, insurance, a book, a holiday, involved a visit to one Website after another in an effort to compare prices and options. Today aggregation is the name of the game and if your consumer-facing business isn’t listed on one of the better known portal sites, then your opportunity for business is limited and your claim to commercial existence is dubious.

Two months ago, my own fixed-rate mortgage expired and promptly ballooned into a higher percentage figure. This week, I finally came around to doing something about it. I visited the JohnCharcol website, spotted a chart-topping offer from a leading Scottish bank and having filled in the application on-line, I paused briefly to call my own mortgage lender.

“I would of course love to stay with you”, I told the representative on the other end of the phone “But if I press the ‘Accept’ button on the screen in front of me I can get an immediate 4.75% with no strings and only have to pay a £150 transfer fee”.

With amazing speed, I was passed to another person, who quickly advised me of my rights as regards the provision of financial advice. And then, like a magician pulling a rabbit from his hat, he produced a mortgage rate of 4.85%. Mine if I chose to stay put.

Now, for the extra time and paperwork involved, 0.10% isn’t a bad deal and simply demonstrates the power of the Web and how haggling or should I say ‘flexibility’, seems to have become a feature of today’s High Street banking experience.

Of course, it’s not just mortgages, its cars and in fact, just about anything you can think of, if you know where to go on the Web. Even news is aggregated and collated through different portals like the one here at CW360.com. You want aggregated news headlines in Reuters-like style from a huge number of sources, then there’s NewsNow.co.uk. If it’s IT White Papers you’re looking for, then there’s The ITPortal and if you’re interest is really vertical and includes eGovernment in the Arab world, there’s even ArabGov.com.

If there’s one good thing that can be said of the Internet today in Europe, then it’s that it’s a powerful force for competition and driving prices down. Naturally, there’s one problem for us in Britain, it’s the Euro and it must present Government with a dilemma. On the one hand, we are being encouraged to go on-line as a nation at dizzying speed and on the other; it’s clearly obvious that most of our European neighbors aren’t squeezed as badly as we are where the cost of living is concerned.

Sign up to the single currency and aggregate the European shopping experience and you have to wonder how much of our spending money will stay in the UK as digital-savvy citizens decide that mail ordering toasters from Belgium is cheaper and no slower in terms of delivery, than ordering the same model from Birmingham over the Internet.

Will it really make a difference, it’s hard to say but perhaps, party politics aside, the Internet and aggregated eCommerce, could be strong a factor in pushing Britain towards the single currency as any other.

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