The Royal Bank of Scotland has launched a banking service which it hopes will transform the way lawyers deal with private client finance.

In an attempt to steal a march on the competition, the bank is targeting top law firms with a computerised system, Roybank, that allows lawyers to create and manage bank accounts for their clients.

The system allows users to create different types of account and transfer money electronically.

Products such as chequebooks and statements can be branded with the firm's name, although the bank remains the deposit taker.

David Faull, business developer of client cash management services, said the Roybank system allowed lawyers to streamline their administration, offer a more comprehensive service to clients and also make money on the accounts.

Money held by a firm in different accounts will be treated as a pooled deposit by the bank and will earn interest at a corporate rate. But the interest rate on the account, and also the charges, are set by the firm, allowing it to pay out less than it makes on the money.

George Burns, finance director at Edinburgh-based Murray Beith & Murray, one of the UK's largest investment management firms, said he was currently looking at Roybank.

He said the system was “undoubtedly a big leap forward” for firms which offered investment management and handled private client finance, but would probably be of limited appeal to large corporate firms.

It is understood other banks, including the Bank of Scotland and Midland Bank, are developing similar systems.

A scheme along the same line set up by Cornish firm C Nicholls and Western Trust & Savings in 1988 folded within a year after the bank pulled out.