Responding to Internet portals' aggressive moves in account aggregation, Bank of America Corp. plans to offer the service - coupled with extras that the portals cannot provide - early next year.
The Charlotte, N.C., banking company has not chosen a vendor yet but says it is looking for one to help it offer aggregation, funds transfers, and chat on its consumer Web site. Bank of America introduced four banking sites - consumer, employee, small-business, and corporate - this past spring. The consumer site now offers standard banking and bill payment services.
"Customers don't just want to have the information; they are demanding to do something with it - such as move money," said Mark Argosh, senior vice president and e-commerce business manager for consumer and small business at Bank of America. "We intend to provide those services with trust, privacy, and security."
Mr. Argosh said the company will start offering aggregation in the first quarter, which puts it a few steps behind some of its competitors. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter already has a service up and running, and Chase Manhattan Corp. introduced its service Monday. Citigroup Inc. has hired Yodlee Inc., the provider to Chase and Morgan Stanley, to help it develop account aggregation.
The portals Yahoo and America Online, which also offer financial-account aggregation, are what Bank of America fears most, Mr. Argosh said. "AOL and Yahoo could cause our customers to use their sites as a place to do daily financial affairs."
A report by Meridien Research of Newton, Mass., says America Online provides account aggregation to 10% of its 23 million customers.
But Mr. Argosh says people would rather manage their finances through their banks, which can give them more personalized services and more ways to handle their accounts. "America Online doesn't have the specific customer profiles and they don't have the transaction capabilities that banks have."
Bank of America's technology strategy now emphasizes partnerships, typically those in which it licenses a vendor's products and advances them by making an equity investment in the partner. It has such alliances with Biztro.com, a provider of business-to-business Internet services for small companies; 724 Solutions, a wireless technology outfit; and CheckFree Holdings Corp., the online bill payment and presentment company.
"We are trying to pick the best partners and focus hard on making them the best technology out there," Mr. Argosh said.
He said Bank of America's four sites are built on a common technology infrastructure, and that the aim of the consumer site is to give users the ability to personalize their banking and manage their finances day to day.
In the future, Mr. Argosh said, the consumer site will offer a single sign-in with digital certificate authentication, and users will have access to all consumer services - including mortgages, checking and savings accounts, loans, and credit cards. For the moment, Mr. Argosh said, Bank of America's online offerings are "a bunch of islands."