executives calls world-class plumbing in the area of digital authentication.

The $9.5 billion-asset bank has turned to a public key infrastructure system from Entrust Technologies Inc. to secure on-line communications and to authenticate employees and customers.

The commitment coincides with government policy in Bermuda to promote electronic commerce.

Bank of Bermuda sees itself as extremely well positioned'' for international e-commerce, said Gavin Grounds, assistant vice president of global internetworking.

The bank joins Chase Manhattan Corp. of New York and Bank of Nova Scotia of Toronto as users of Entrust's data encryption technology. Mr. Grounds said he does not know of any other bank that has moved to public key technology to the same extent and with such a holistic perspective as Bank of Bermuda.

Bank of Bermuda, which operates in 17 jurisdictions around the world, expects to build on the project, called Secure Client Access, to raise its profile in the mutual fund industry and among corporate and private banking clients.

After nine months of development, Secure Client Access has been rolled out to 150 internal users in places as far afield as London, Luxembourg, Singapore, Dublin, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man.

This month it is being extended to clients initially on a demand basis, Mr. Grounds said.

Eventually, it will be rolled out to thousands of internal and external users, said Michael Ebbs, director of information systems, in a telephone interview from Bank of Bermuda's technology site in Stirling, Scotland.

The bank also has back-office centers in Bermuda and Hong Kong.

Until now clients gained access to the bank via private leased lines or dial-up service into one of 10 Bank of Bermuda sites with a dial-up infrastructure. Now access has been extended to include dial-up into the Amsterdam-based Equant global data network, which has a presence in 140 countries and the Internet, Mr. Grounds said.

Bank customers and executives wanted higher levels of security, Mr. Ebbs said. We wanted to create world-class plumbing so that anyone anywhere could access the Bank of Bermuda in a reliable, cost-effective manner, with security as strong and transparent as possible.

Relying on authentication through the public key infrastructure, or PKI, the bank can bring our existing on-line services to public networks and provide a solid security framework within which to work to bring new on-line services to our clients, Mr. Grounds said.

Acting as its own certificate authority, managing processes from issuance to expiration or revocation of digital credentials, Bank of Bermuda is assured full control over the entire process.

It chose Entrust from a short list of competitors that included Baltimore Technologies Inc. and Verisign Inc.

We chose Entrust, Mr. Grounds said, because the model allowed us to choose the physical location for the CA (certificate authority), namely Bermuda. The two others could enable the bank to operate as a CA, but we would have had to go to a third party to get the basic application software to utilize the certificates, he said. Entrust was able to provide us with a CA solution and the applications, namely encrypted signed messages, to essentially become almost a one-stop shop.

In line with many others who have researched on-line security options, Mr. Grounds said he views PKI as a key to e-commerce assurances. We needed to address some immediate business requirements and lay a foundation for future growth and development, he said. Implementing a PKI-based solution met our requirements.

Bank of Bermuda is a very important deal for us, said Robert Heard, senior vice president of marketing and business development at Plano, Tex.-based Entrust. It is trying to embrace e-business and e-commerce, (and) we put the trust into the equation.

The Secure Client Access project is expected to evolve. The bank said it expects to begin offering Internet banking and to enhance its multicurrency processing and settlement of credit card transactions.

We'll offer the same architecture to retail banking that we'll deliver to our high-end corporate clients, said Mr. Ebbs. Now that we're out in front, we want to stay out in front.

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