First Tennessee National Corp. is one of a growing number of banks basing its Internet offering on the Java computer programming language.

The $13.2 billion-asset First Tennessee Bank chose to use Java-based applets-small computer programs that can be easily transmitted over computer networks-instead of static HTML (hypertext markup language) because "Java provides security of information and transactions, and a compelling user interface for marketing," said Tripp Johnson, the bank's manager of new technologies.

Another advantage of Java is its interoperability-Java programs can be written once to run on any computer anywhere.

Mr. Johnson, hired four months ago to jump-start Memphis-based First Tennessee's Internet program, is part of a growing group of Java fans in corporate America, according to a survey commissioned by Sun Microsystems Inc., which created Java.

The study, conducted by Zona Research, of 279 technologists in a variety of North American industries (including banking) found 84% of companies plan to develop new applications in Java, and more than 90% see Java as a crucial technology.

Clay Ryder, Zona's chief analyst, pointed out that 53% of those not currently using Java have plans to test or deploy it in the next 12 months.

Respondents typically expect to use Java in Web site construction and in internal and external communication applications.

The decision to deploy Java generally begins at the lower levels of organizations, though more and more upper-level managers are becoming aware of it, the survey showed.

First Tennessee's use of Java demonstrates one way that banks are getting exposed to the language.

Before being hired at First Tennessee, Mr. Tripp had been consulting at the bank for about 18 months. His work involved researching on-line banking technology, and he convinced the bank to go with Java-based software from Home Account Network Inc. of Charleston, S.C.

The bank plans to deploy four applications: Financial Advisor, Online ATM, Check Register, and Bill Pay.

Home Account's three-tier Java architecture was ideal for First Tennessee's purposes, Mr. Johnson said.

"When we choose to have new product lines, we just need to add a new server application instead of reconfiguring an entire network or bringing in new architecture for every product," he said. "The scalability was key for First Tennessee in this deployment of Java."

The bank is about six to nine months away from rolling out its Internet offering to the public, but it expects to test the system with employees in the next quarter.

Mr. Johnson declined to predict how many customers are likely to sign up for the Java program.

"We're not studying numbers. This is another delivery channel for our customers, and we don't see this replacing current devices we have in place," he said.

Mr. Johnson said that customer education will be an important part of attracting users. "We're hoping they'll use a Java-enabled browser," he said.

Other banks using Java-based programs are First Union Corp., Norwest Mortgage Inc., and J.P. Morgan & Co.

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