Brightware Inc., Novato, Calif., has unveiled two programs that would let banks automate some sales and marketing tasks related to Internet banking.
The company specializes in so-called artificial intelligence - software that mimics basic "thought" processes, allowing it to respond to promptings from humans.
In a banking application, Brightware's software could be used to answer E-mail inquiries and offer product suggestions to consumers using an Internet Web site.
Security First Network Bank and Swiss Bank have agreed to let Brightware tailor the programs for them.
"On the Internet, companies have only computers to represent them," said Chuck Williams, founder and chief executive of Brightware. Artificial intelligence "could mean the difference between a company being seen as intelligent or not in the minds of potential customers," he said.
In May 1995, Brightware was spun off from Inference Corp., a 17-year-old northern California company attempting to commercialize artificial intelligence.
The newer company said it hopes that its BrightAdvisor and BrightResponse products will be the "killer applications" for automating routine Internet customer service functions currently performed by humans.
BrightAdvisor allows potential customers to type questions into a form on a bank's Web page and receive immediate replies that are individually tailored.
Security First plans to use BrightAdvisor as a way of letting the computer "educate" a consumer about selecting and securing a loan.
Internet lending has been slow to take off, said Mr. Williams, "because it has been difficult to replicate the advice and service a loan officer normally provides."
BrightResponse helps banks overwhelmed with E-mail automate some of their replies.
In a test last year by American Banker, Brightware customer Chase Manhattan Corp. responded within three hours to a series of E-mail questions.
Swiss Bank plans to use BrightResponse to help automate marketing and sales for the financial services mall it is building on the Internet.