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(Reuters) – British bank Standard Chartered is replacing the BlackBerry, currently its standard corporate communications device, with the iPhone, a move that could eventually result in thousands of bankers switching to the Apple device for business communication on the go.

Standard Chartered bankers in Asia told Reuters that the London-based lender was giving its corporate BlackBerry users the option of switching to the iPhone, with the company agreeing to continue to pay monthly billing for business-related telephone and data services.

"It’s a group-wide initiative involving wholesale and consumer banks globally," said a Singapore-based spokeswoman for Standard Chartered, told Reuters. The spokeswoman declined to be identified due to company policy.

The process of migrating corporate email services from the BlackBerry to the iPhone started about a month ago, said the spokeswoman, although she did not know how many of the Asia-focused bank’s 75,000 employees used company-issued BlackBerries or when the switchover could be completed.

Bankers at other financial institutions such as HSBC Holdings Plc and Morgan Stanley have so far been restricted to the BlackBerry as the standard device issued by their firms for business communications. Despite some indications of change, it may take time for a broader switch to take place, mainly because of security concerns, according to financial professionals and information technology analysts.

"If more companies switch to the iPhone, this is of course bad news for RIM," said Lu Chialin, an IT industry analyst at Macquarie Securities in Taipei. "However, it will take a long time for companies to do their own internal testing before deciding to change, so it will be a while before it has any effect on RIM."

BlackBerries, from Canada’s Research in Motion, are the device of choice for bankers and executives who need regular access to email and the Internet when outside the office.

"People are always switching. I saw there were people switching to BlackBerries as well," said Gregory Shea, RIM’s China managing director.

"I think the point is it’s a very dynamic market. There are many very imaginative companies out there. Service providers, vendors, software application developers, very dynamic," he told Reuters in Beijing after the launch ceremony for BlackBerry services offered by China Telecom, the smallest of China’s trio telecoms providers.