A new book-and-video package promises to help executives of smaller banks jump-start their electronic banking services.

Developed by the American Bankers Association, "The Community Bankers Electronic Banking Toolbox" is designed to help executives assess their needs and formulate an electronic banking strategy for their institutions. The package, available only to ABA member banks, includes a five-minute video and 225-page book full of work sheets and samples.

"It's perfect to get started, but it's also good for banks already involved," said Kathleen Murphy, director of the ABA's Community Bankers Council, which developed the "Toolbox." Ms. Murphy said bankers like the book's step-by-step approach and practical orientation.

Leon Patterson, the chief executive of Palmetto Bank in Laurens, S.C., said the book "helped him understand the big picture of electronic banking."

In particular, he said, he liked its marketing survey, which is designed to help an executive assess customers' electronic banking needs. Nearly 35 million households have home computers.

Mr. Patterson said his bank intends to use the package, even though Palmetto Bank already offers a credit card, a debit card, and telephone banking.

The book also helps executives develop an electronic strategy by cataloging their electronic banking options, such as telephone banking, Internet banking, and card-based products.

These chapters give bankers a solid overview of electronic banking, and provide ratings sheets that bankers can use to decide what options best suit their needs.

"I liked the work sheets that helped you decide your direction, and if you were ready to go that way," said Craig Kremser, vice president of Muncy Bank and Trust Co., Muncy, Pa.

The second half of the book assumes that bankers will need a technology partner, and lists a broad array of technology vendors ranging from credit card producers to data base developers.

In an effort to keep the work timely, the list of technology vendors will be continuously updated on the association's computer service, the Bankers Electronic Network.

"I think the vendor partnership is important because it will allow (community bankers) to do things they haven't done before," Ms. Murphy said.

The "Toolbox" video, interspersed with music and lively editing, contains from community bankers who have already begun experimenting with electronic banking. The ABA recommends that officials use this video to gain their board's support.

"The video puts you on alert and lets you know the direction the services are going," said Mr. Kremser.

Ms. Murphy said that the project cost $200,000 and that the association expects to fill 6,000 orders. She also said that the project took six months and that over 100 chief executives contributed.

ABA member banks can receive one complimentary copy of the package for free, but additional copies cost $295.

Mr. Smith writes for the Medill News Service.

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