Cheetah Broadcasting, a division of Cheetah Systems Inc., aims to help banks improve on a run-of-the-mill conference call.
The Fremont, Calif.-based company offers cybercasting, the broadcasting of conferences and meetings over the Internet with a few high-tech twists. Graphics and written transcripts of meetings can accompany speakers' voices, and questions or comments from participants can be submitted via a World Wide Web page.
Bank headquarters could "communicate directly with their sales force or employees using the computer," said Steve Markey, marketing manager at Cheetah Broadcasting.
Industry experts said the company could face an uphill battle in finding a market at banks.
One stumbling block: "Not a lot of banks have implemented Internet access that is widely available," said Robert Landry, an analyst with the Tower Group in Newton, Mass.
In addition, Cheetah faces competition from computer-based training firms that offer similar technologies, Mr. Landry said.
However, as banks try to cut travel expenses, and with Internet availability of the rise, there is a growing market for the type of service offered by Cheetah.
Attending a cybercast requires a participant to call up a specially designed Web site. Once there, a screen divided into quadrants appears. Each quadrant is dedicated to a specific piece of text related to the meeting: the transcript, the most recent spoken text, graphics, and a form for questions and comments.
When words are spoken in a meeting, the audio is piped to other participants through their computers. Typists at Cheetah's offices take court reporter-style notes and provide the Web site with real-time text of the proceedings.
The cybercasting could be useful in a meeting featuring a lot of figures and graphics, or in one with many participants, experts said. The text/audio combination can give listeners more time to digest details and examine unclear passages without interrupting the exchange of information.
Mr. Markey said Cheetah designed its service to work with computers that have less than cutting-edge modems.
Though it specializes in the combination of text, audio, and computer graphics, Cheetah also can incorporate video feeds into its cybercasts.
The use of video could make Cheetah's product more appealing to banks, experts said.
Several institutions, including People's Bank of Bridgeport, Conn., use video teleconferencing as an alternative to travel.
For People's, the technology is most useful for communications between its headquarters and its credit card operation in the United Kingdom.
It also comes in handy for contacting customers, bank executives said. People's conducted a video banking pilot late last year in which customers could interact with financial experts, such as mutual fund brokers, via branch-based computers.
Now, People's customers can apply for home equity loans, open checking accounts, or buy certificates of deposit using video conferencing, said Patricia Manion, first vice president of direct banking at People's.