Bank Access 24, KFT, a Hungarian company run by American business leaders affiliated with Arkansas Systems Inc., has formed a strategic partnership to establish a national electronic funds transfer network for Hungary.

Michael J. Brown, Bank Access 24's chief executive officer, said the network will provide Hungary's financial institutions with convenient and affordable means of providing EFT services to customers.

"The network's aim is to provide customers of every bank in Hungary with electronic access to funds and services while offering international financial services," he said.

"Customers will be able to perform all of the standard automated teller machine transactions and will eventually be able to use the network for electronic bill payment."

Bank Access 24 is a new firm created specifically to create an electronic infrastructure for the Hungarian banking system. The firm plans to roll out 400 ATMs throughout the country this quarter, a small network by U.S. standards. However, Mr. Brown indicated the network may grow.

"We think there is a huge opportunity for this type of service," said Mr. Brown. "By building a network that is accessible to many different banks, we are able to reduce the costs associated with providing the services that banks would incur if they created their own network."

"The reality is that the banking system throughout all of Europe is not as retail orientated as here in the United States, and, as such, there are opportunities to provide these types of services," he continued.

The network will link a number of banks together using Arkansas Systems' Gold-Net software on an IBM AS/400 platform.

Mr. Brown said that once the Hungarian network is established, he plans link it to international networks like Plus, Cirrus, and MasterCard's EuroPay.

"The software will allow Bank Access 24 the ability to offer a network similar to (the Northeast superregional network) NYCE," said Robert Roedel, director of marketing at Arkansas Systems.

"It will also link Hungary with Europe's other networks, allowing travelers to withdraw cash throughout the country."

In a separate announcement, Arkansas Systems said it will provide software to Americard Services Inc. for nationwide credit card authorizations for credit union customers.

Americard will use the software to allow customer banks to increase the level of service they offer without having to deal with bulk file transmissions to Visa or MasterCard.

Merchants will be issued transaction authorizations based on available balances from Americard.

Customer balances will be transmitted to member credit unions through batch transmissions or on-line connections.

Last year, Little Rock-based Arkansas Systems acquired Visa International's card authorization and processing system.

The system, formerly known as Vicaps, is designed for the IBM AS/400 platform used for small credit card programs.

At the time, Bruce Hobbs, director of bank card system sales for the firm, said the future of plastic may be an all-for-one card that functions as a credit, debit, and automated teller machine card.

"Should that industry conversion take place, we will have the software available to offer it to customers," he said.

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