vSimplify, which runs employee benefit intranets for midsize companies, says three big banking companies are considering sponsoring some of these sites as a way to sell banking, insurance, and investment products.

The Stamford, Conn., firm says the three companies, with which it is negotiating, are Hibernia Corp. in New Orleans, People's Bank in Bridgeport, Conn., and Bank of New York Co.

Some insurers and accounting and payroll companies already sponsor some vSimplify benefits intranets, but no banking companies do, vSimplify says.

If the negotiations are successful, the banking companies would propose to current or potential corporate clients that vSimplify run their benefits intranets, with the banking company to play a role.

Each site costs $5 to $10 per employee per month, said Girish V. Nadkarni, president and chief executive officer of vSimplify. Banks and other sponsors can pass that along to corporate clients, pay part or all of it, or charge extra to earn a little money on the service, he said.

The sites can include not only benefits information and enrollment instructions but also links to information about the sponsoring company's accounts, loans, insurance products, and investment products as well as employee directories, company memos, e-mail, and other services.

Sponsoring such sites can give a bank's insurance or investment subsidiaries an alternative to cross-selling on the bank's own Web sites, Mr. Nadkarni said.

Companies can use their benefits intranets as general-purpose corporate intranets and "start pages" for Web access, Mr. Nadkarni said. "Banks have spent a lot of time building their own portals, but nobody's showing up," he said. An employer's intranet site "is the one site where every single employee will sign on every day."

The vSimplify sites include information and engines that employees can use to determine, for example, if they need more insurance, he said. The sponsor can also add links to other vSimplify clients that offer such services as travel and computer supplies, Mr. Madkarni said.

The sites are password-protected, so only employees can get on one, and there can be different levels of access for different employees, Mr. Nadkarni said.

Using a sponsored vSimplify site can be attractive to employers, because building and maintaining such a site independently can be too expensive for small or midsize companies, he said.

vSimplify completed its testing phase three months ago and currently has 20 employers in various stages of bringing their sites online, Mr. Nadkarni said.

Carmen Effron of the C.F. Effron consulting firm in Westport, Conn., said that from the bank's perspective such a sponsored intranet site is "a great customer acquisition and retention tool, and gets their products and services in front of the employees.

The arrangement "enhances the relationship between the bank and the business customer" while providing an opportunity to cross-sell to the employees, Ms. Effron said.


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