Bank of Montreal, which has a track record of selling technology that it uses to other banks, is at it again.
The Toronto company said Tuesday that it has joined forces with 724 Solutions Inc. to offer wireless services and support to small and midsize financial institutions in North America.
Bank of Montreal worked with 724 two years ago to become the first North American bank to offer wireless financial service. In the new venture the bank will contribute its marketing and execution know-how and 724 the infrastructure.
The initiative is part of an ongoing Bank of Montreal effort to market its technology to other financial institutions. It already markets several high-tech services through its Emfisys Group, a development arm created in 1997.
In October 1998 Bank of Montreal and American Management Systems launched Competix.com, a joint venture that offers small and midsize institutions the instant credit decisioning technology that the bank co-developed with AMS. Last March the bank, in alliance with Newcourt Credit Group, announced the formation of FinanciaLinx, which provides auto leasing services to dealers in Canada.
Mark Dickelman, vice president of Emfisys' mobile commerce and wireless division, said the joint venture with 724 "is part of a corporate strategy to create a number of leading edge technologies and then to commercialize them for other institutions."
The venture will target banks the size of Bank of Montreal's $28 billion-asset Harris Bank and smaller, Mr. Dickelman said.
"The technology we built for our own organization can be used in multiple ways, including to arrange for financial institutions to offer wireless service that they might otherwise not be able to develop their own," he said.
Greg Wolfond, chairman of 724, said Bank of Montreal "has a desire to market to smaller banks that weren't the focus of 724 Solutions and to the extent they are successful marketing it, we will be successful."
724 offers wireless services for larger banking companies. Its clients include Bank of America Corp., Chase Manhattan Corp., Wells Fargo & Co., Wachovia Corp., and KeyCorp.
Bank of Montreal will use direct mail, statement inserts, radio and television commercials, and other means to help its small-bank clients market the wireless services to customers.
The bank launched its Veev wireless service in Canada in 1999 and introduced it for Harris Bank customers last year. That rollout is still in the introductory phase, and Bank of Montreal is still soliciting customers for the service.
"We have comparable to faster adoption" for Veev in the United States than in Canada, Mr. Dickelman said. "When we started in Canada, it was the first anywhere, and we had clumsy phones and limited coverage areas."
According to Sprint PCS, which is providing cellular phones to Harris customers, there are one million subscribers to the wireless Internet. All of Sprint's new phones are wireless Web-enabled.
Joe Laszlo, a wireless-industry analyst at Jupiter Research, said, "724 Solutions has a deserved perception as being a high-end solution, and if they can package that as a turnkey solution, it is a good strategy to reach out to a broader market."
The deal also makes sense for Bank of Montreal, which "can give legitimate advice because they have built the service from the ground up," he said.