The software manufacturer Intuit Inc. said it has lined up 10 financial institutions to participate in its Quicken Business Cash Finder service, which allows entrepreneurs to use the Internet to shop for business loans.
Intuit, the Mountain View, Calif.-based maker of the Quickbooks PC banking program for small businesses, will link the Cash Finder service to its Web site on Tuesday.
Cash Finder allows business owners to shop for credit cards, credit lines, term loans, and leases. Entrepreneurs can use the service to print out an application, sign it, and fax it to the participating financial institution of their choice.
The companies offering the service include Citicorp, KeyCorp, SouthTrust Corp., Centura Banks, and Compass Bancshares.
Andy Hernandez, SouthTrust's vice president for alternative delivery systems, said Cash Finder was a cheaper way to prospect for small-business customers than direct mail or telemarketing.
SouthTrust wanted to be one of the first 10 banks to participate in the program to keep small-business prospects from going to its competitors, Mr. Hernandez said.
"When a small-business owner goes to Intuit's Web site, we know we can at least have a shot at getting their loan," he said.
The service is free to small-business owners, but financial institutions pay Intuit a fee for each customer who uses it to apply for a loan, said Kirby Freeman, an Intuit product manager.
Norman Osborn, Centura's small-business segment manager, said the Cash Finder program would help the Rocky Mount, N.C.-based bank promote a high- tech image to potential customers.
"Anytime we can get our name in front of new customers, it's a benefit to us," he said. "This gives us access to customers through a new channel."
Mr. Osborn said Centura plans to add its small-business loan application to its Web site later this year, but expects the site will be used primarily by current customers rather than prospects.
Sandra Maltby, KeyCorp vice chairman, said Cash Finder is a sign of the commoditization of small-business. But, she said, she expects Cash Finder will help locate new customers for the bank.
"We knew small-business loans would become a commodity," she said. "When you can go to your computer and click on a few icons to apply for a loan, you know that time is here."