By 2000, experts expect up to 15 percent of U.S. households to bank via the Internet. The demographics of this segment of consumers-college educated and high-wage earners-are attractive to banks.

The real issue for banks is how to hold onto customers longer, says Robert Landry, retail banking consultant for The Tower Group. Banks are doing this by broadening their existing customer relationships. A partnership between Meca Software and Marimba Inc., a Palo Alto, CA-based push technology company, promises to help banks build on-line relationships with customers through a new electronic financial services delivery system. The service is expected to be deployed in late 1998.

The best time to approach consumers with bank offers is when they're paying bills. The Meca-Marimba system will provide consumers with financial information and products from their bank, as well as news, weather and other services to keep them coming back, says Meca CEO Paul Harrison. The Meca-Marimba system will also allow banks to update applications and eliminate program viruses quickly and inexpensively.

But banks could face problems with the push technology, which, if used improperly, can prove intrusive. "Don't blast a message every time a consumer nears the site," warns Harrison. W.Royal

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