Beneficial Corp., a leading nonbank participant in the credit and finance business, has created a technology unit to develop computer applications in-house.

Beneficial Systems Development Corp. formally opened its doors for business last week in Tampa.

A subsidiary of Beneficial Technology Corp., Beneficial Systems develops internal systems and software for other divisions of the Wilmington, Del.- based Beneficial Corp.

The new unit may also eventually generate revenue for its parent by providing programming and system services to other companies.

The opening of such a unit runs counter to a trend in banking in which many financial institutions are trying to scale back their reliance on in- house systems development in favor of help from third-party vendors.

While the existence of a large programming staff does not necessarily mean Beneficial will forgo all outside help, company officials believe an in-house development team will help the company in the long run.

"This venture will allow for faster development of technology systems in a new management culture that we believe is more cost effective," said Theodore L. Boyer, president of Beneficial Technology Corp.

"We have meshed together the technology and the customer service side of the business, so that we can offer better products and services to existing and future customers."

Beneficial Technology Corp. currently employs several hundred programmers throughout its organization and plans to add over 100 with the creation of the Beneficial Systems division.

Mr. Boyer said the new unit will allow Beneficial to take a fresh look at software and find ways to make it work better throughout the organization.

"We think this will allow us to speed up the programming process," he said.

"It will allow us to bring applications out faster, offer better customer service, and save us money on the bottom line."

The unit will support the technology side of Beneficial's core credit and consumer finance business.

Beneficial operates more than 900 branch offices throughout the United States. These offer an array of credit products ranging from sales financing and revolving credit lines to second mortgages and personal loans.

The company also operates a private-label credit card bank, known as Beneficial National Bank, which is ranked in the top 50 of its kind by the American Banker. The bank has been in business for four years and currently has over $1.6 billion in receivables.

Beneficial Corp. also offers a wide variety of financial services through a network of branches in Europe.

James Inglis, a securities analyst at Philo Smith & Co. in Stamford, Conn., said the in-house development of new customer-service-oriented applications likely will improve the Beneficial's bottom line.

"It is very expensive for the branches to handle all the paperwork that accompanies the services the firm offers, and by automating the processes it will become more efficient," he said.

"By creating this division, Beneficial will be able to bring together all of the various aspects of its business electronically."

Beneficial Systems will operate with a team-based organizational structure under its new president Bonnie VanOverbeke.

Ms. VanOverbeke comes to Beneficial Systems from Kash n' Karry Food Stores Inc., a Tampa-based supermarket chain where she was vice president of management information systems.

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