NEW ORLEANS - Despite reports of flat revenues from cash management services, big banks are still upbeat about the business and are backing it up with multimillion-dollar technology investments.
At the Treasury Management Association conference here last week, BankAmerica Corp., Citicorp, and First Interstate Bancorp said they were spending big dollars to build new cash management services for their corporate clients.
"I think the investments are going in because we're all bullish on transaction banking," said William L. Moran, a Citicorp executive vice president for global cash management product development in Chicago.
A type of cash management product that was being pushed especially heavily by banks at the conference was new personal computer "access" software that employs Microsoft Corp.'s Windows technology.
Banks have given their corporate customers electronic "access" systems for years that let cash managers use telephones, personal computers, and so-called "dumb" terminals to retrieve account balances, initiate funds transfers, obtain letters of credit, or transfer stock.
The Windows-based cash management software is supposed to be easier to use than the earlier technologies because it employs a graphical user interface.
BankAmerica, Bank of Boston Corp., Bank of New York Co., First Interstate, NationsBank Corp., and PNC Bank Corp. were among the institutions that announced new Window-based access software at the show.
These banks' announcements followed last year's introductions by Citicorp, First Chicago Corp., and Michigan National Corp. of similar Windows access software at the conference.
In addition, Chemical Banking Corp. announced earlier this year it is developing a Windows-based workstation for financial institution clients that subscribed to its BankLink cash management service bureau.
BankAmerica has made development of new Windows access software a key element of a plan to spend $90 million over the next 18 months to upgrade its cash management software, said a bank vice president who is involved in the effort.
The whole cash management industry "is moving to Windows," said Mr. Moran of Citicorp.
Other new services and tecnologies were also promoted.
For example, First Interstate announced a handful of new services and technology investments, including a new "Positive Pay" service for identifying and returning forged checks, and the installation of new image processing system in wholesale lockbox centers in Portland, Ore., and Seattle.
First Interstate is not the first bank to offer Positive Pay. More than half of all large cash management banks now offer the service, according to the technology consulting firm Ernst & Young.
But the introduction of Positive Pay and other services should be taken as a sign that First Interstate is getting more aggressive about competing in the cash management marketplace, officials said.
Citicorp also promoted new technology investments in services. Among the bank's announcements was the development of a new computer system for its CitiNetting service.
This service, which has been around for years, is used by multinational companies to streamline international payments between subsidiaries.
The Old CitiNetting system ran exclusively on mainframe computers. The new system, which cost nearly a million dollars to develop, bank officials said, will run both on personal computers in cash manager offices, and on a mainframe computer at Citicorp.