A project to make Italy's banks more user-friendly was launched in October with a service that tells clients where to find their closest working automatic teller machine (ATM) by telephone (800 002266) or internet (www.pattichiari.it). This is the first step in an eight-month campaign, "Patti Chiari", organised by Italy's national banking association (ABI) to encourage transparency in the country's notoriously complicated financial services sector.

"Faro", which stands for "funzionamento ATM rivelato on-line" but is also Italian for beacon, allows clients to check where the closest working ATM is, which bank it belongs to and what services it offers.

"Patti Chiari" is scheduled to launch a new initiative on the 15th of each month until March 2004. In November ABI plans to provide a list of low-risk, low-interest bonds as a reference for inexperienced investors. In December the association is due to publish a summary of the criteria used by banks to issue credit ratings, while January should see the presentation of fact sheets on available bank accounts, clearly listing services and costs in order to make it easier to compare products. In February a new, simpler type of bank account will be introduced, which provides basic services at a minimum cost. Finally, in March ABI will issue a comparison of banks based on how long they take to process cheques and respond to loan requests.

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