BayBanks Growing Electronically

Continuing its focus on electronic banking, BayBanks Inc. announced Thursday the deployment of a new banking machine that it hopes will extend its retail presence in New England.

The machines, known as X-Press Banking, allow customers to apply for credit, buy postage stamps, order checks, and receive detailed account information 24 hours a day. X-Press Banking machines do not dispense cash.

"The project grew from a deluge of inquiries that we were receiving at our service areas," said Lindsey C. Lawrence, president of BayBanks Systems Inc. in Boston. "We sensed tremendous demand for this service, and this product is our response to that."

Expanding from Large Base

The company is expanding what is already one of the largest electronic banking programs in the country. The announcement simultaneously affirmed the banking industry's renewed focus on making automated banking products a significant revenue source.

"With the general acceptance of electronic banking, there is a much greater demand for extended services, and banks are starting to try and capitalize on that," said Linda Fenner Zimmer, a Marlborough, Conn.-based researcher specializing in payment systems.

Boston-based BayBanks has been extremely successful at getting its customers to use electronic banking services. Thanks in part to an extensive advertising campaign that boasts, "If you've got the card, we've got the cash," the $9.9 billion-asset bank holding company handles more than 230,000 electronic banking transactions monthly.

In addition, more than 90% of BayBanks customers carry automated teller machine cards - 20 percentage points above the industry average, according to figures from the American Bankers Association.

$1 Million in Fee Income

The company's ATM fleet of 1,250 is easily the largest in the region, and bank officials said they hope the new X-Press machines will add to the more than $1 million in annual fees already generated by electronic banking services.

BayBanks has four X-Press units deployed in and about Boston, and it plans to expand the program in coming months.

Transactions on the new machines cost varying amounts. Certain functions - including interest rate information, loan modeling, and growth projections for certificates of deposit and individual retirement accounts - are free.

Charges for other transactions range from 25 cents for a check update to $2 for a comprehensive statement update, which gives a status report on a customer's entire relationship with the bank.

Fleet Was First

Although X-Press is a significant move for BayBanks, the machines - made by NCR Corp., Dayton, Ohio - are not entirely new to the region. Fleet/Norstar Financial Corp., Providence, R.I., announced a similar product in late April.

"Revenue aside, the goal is to increase the range of transactions that customers can do on their own, if they choose," said Michael R. Zucchini, then Fleet's chief technologist. "That will free our people up to do some other things."

Both the BayBanks and Fleet banking machines have touch screens and are accessible to customers in wheelchairs.

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