Certisoft Solutions Inc., a start-up software company based in Engelwood, Colo., has developed a low-cost automated clearing house origination and receiving system targeted at community banks.

Women's Bank in Denver was the beta test site for the system. "It's very sophisticated," said Louis K. Clain, vice president and cashier at the $110 million-asset institution. "It used to be that you had to have a pretty expensive package on a big mainframe to do everything on the ACH."

Certisoft's product is Windows-based and has electronic data capabilities. It is formatted to process automated clearing house transactions with accompanying corporate trade exchange information, or CTX, a standard electronic data interchange payment format.

The system comes in two modules; one for the banking industry and one for corporations.

Certisoft joins a growing number of vendors - including Maxxus Inc. and Fitech Inc. - that provide affordable automated clearing house origination software,

"It's primarily geared to small and medium-sized institutions," said John C. Insko, Certisoft's vice president. "Our target base is between $20 million and $1 billion."

Bankers said a significant market exists for the new product. "On the origination side, I'd bet that there are 8,000 to 10,000 banks in the U.S. that cannot originate ACH items," Mr. Clain said.

"In the Denver region there is hardly anyone originating other than four or five big banks around here."

Women's Bank is one of several institutions that sprouted in the late 1970s to support businesses owned by women. Though it retains its original name, the bank has broadened its business lines to be comparable to ordinary commercial banks.

Earlier this year, the bank had decided to provide its 17 corporate customers with a full line of cash management products in an effort to stem the loss of business to competitors.

"The way I look at it," Mr. Clain said, "this assists us in giving the customer a full array of products and not have them go to some other bank because they need the ACH."

Certisoft's PC-based software costs $3,000. Mr. Clain noted that the recent downward trend in the price of technology has given community banks the ability to offer services comparable to those of their larger competitors.

"I can charge a customer a fraction of what a large bank has to charge and provide the same level of service," Mr. Clain said.

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