A joint venture of Bank of Montreal, Barclays PLC , Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd., and the technology consulting firm American Management Systems Inc. will provide trade services over the Internet.
The new firm, which has yet to be named, will let banks and their corporate customers initiate and track trade-related transactions online. It initially will automate letters of credit, and then expand into other, unspecified areas.
A board of employees from each participant company is now in charge; ultimately there will be an independent management team. The three founding banks are providing their back-office transaction processing capabilities and using Internet technology developed by American Management.
Australia and New Zealand Banking Group will install the new platform next year, followed by the other two partner banks. The company hopes to attract other midsize and large banks as clients, but not as investors.
The venture faces competition from two more established firms, TradeCard Inc. and Bolero.net, that also automate the logistics of international trade processing including the letters of credit that the new venture is initially targeting.
By pooling their resources, the three banking companies hope to lower the investment required to make Internet trade processing more efficient, while retaining ownership of corporate customers and control over pricing systems and risk management, said David Yates, a general manager of American Management Systems.
Bank of Montreal was attracted to the venture because "we needed to get a much higher, more flexible type of technology with the growth the Web and business-to-business technology," said Peter Wren, its managing director of trade finance. Increasingly, customers are demanding a system that facilitates international trade transactions, he said.
Banks have a long history of creating alliances, said Rembert de Villa, a vice president and partner in the financial institutions group at the Chicago consulting firm A.T. Kearney. Though such arrangements help each participant become more efficient, they raise questions of competition, he said. Bank of Montreal, Barclays, and Australia and New Zealand will be spared that problem since they are not trying to compete in the same marketplace, Mr. de Villa said.