Bank profits, as they exist today, are under siege from the effects of technology. The maturing of digital signature technology, smart cards and the Internet are automating at-home customer interfaces to wither bank profits at the hands of an Internet-wide competition for bank customers. Now is the time for financial institutions to leverage their existing assets to penetrate emerging Internet markets.

Several key factors in the at-home transacting equation have quietly passed critical milestones in the past few months, such as "signing- capable" smart cards that can digitally sign transactions using public key techniques. Some might think smart cards are a "been there, done that" technology-but few smart card designs have successfully navigated the gauntlet of stringent conditions that come with the "signing-capable" label. This critical piece of the at-home transacting puzzle is just recently available from vendors.

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