Chase Manhattan Corp. is so eager to keep its cash management clients that it will even do windows. - Microsoft Corp.'s Windows, that is.

The $94 billion-asset banking company's latest foray into the world of the graphical user interface is an investment system that lets corporate treasury types make short-term investment decisions from their desktops.

Admittedly, this type of application isn't new to a portion of the banking industry that prides itself on being technology-savvy

What is fresh about Chase's offering is its Windows orientation - a slightly belated acknowledgement of the operating environment that has become the de facto standard for personal computers.

Chase executives believe the Windows offering will mean greater ease of use for clients and more business for the bank.

"Cash managers have gotten busier and we're making their job easier," said Susan Altemus Emrich, vice president and product manager in Chase's global cash management department.

"Offering a system in Windows helps our customers manage their cash and review different investment options from their desks and helps them invest more. That's good for us," she said.

Clearly, the stakes are high for Chase. The Impact software is part of Infoserv, the bank's wholesale technology services unit.

As of yearend 1992, Infoserv's businesses were custodian or trustee for approximately $880 billion in assets, in businesses such as securities processing, payments, trade services, custody, and trust.

Chase would not disclose the amount of fee income or overall revenues generated by Impact or Infoserv.

Susan W. Schoon, senior vice president of global cash management, would say only that Infoserv's revenues have grown between 16% and 25% in each of its four years of existence.

Diane B. Glossman, research analyst at Salomon Brothers Inc., estimated in April 1993 that Infoserv contributed $105 million to Chase's bottom line last year, with that figure likely to rise to between $115 million and $120 million in 1993.

Having to make do with little more than sketchy reports and scattered numbers, some analysts have long been critical of Chase and other money center banks for not disclosing more details about fee-generating technology operations, including revenues and expenses.

"Banks don't seem to want to disclose whether they are making money off these programs or not," said Howard Schwartz, senior vice president at Gemini Consulting, Cambridge, Mass.

But Ms. Emrich said the real payoff for Chase is not in additional profits, but in the area of customer relationships.

"We're helping the customer automate processes that used to be done with paper or by telephone," she said. "We feel that if users like the service they'll stick around and see what else the bank has to offer."

The Impact software lets corporate treasurers, cash managers, and pension and trust managers move money in and out of money market funds or make buy-sell orders for securities traded by Chase Securities Inc., with little more than a few clicks on a mouse.

The software also tracks investment portfolios and rates, and maintains a list of the customer's transactions.

The Impact product is just the first of many dominoes expected to fall in Chase's cash management area. The bank plans to reengineer all of its PC-based bank access products to make them Windows-compatible.

"We've moved our services over to Windows because the industry is moving in that direction," Ms. Emrich said.

"In this business you can't build something once and expect it to remain static," she added.

Industry observers feel Chase's move to Windows could pose a formidable challenge to its competitors while boosting fee income and building long-term customer relationships.

"Putting the system in Windows complements the product offering," said Jeffrey A. Thompson, a managing consultant in the financial institutions consulting practice at Towers Perrin, Chicago.

"Chase is giving people access to information and allowing them to access it in a way they're comfortable with," he added.

The software, according to Mr. Thompson, helps Chase customers deal with "information overload," affording them up-to-the-minute cash flow information, historical and current rates on a variety of money market instruments, and electronic transaction initiation, as well as printing and graphing capabilities.

When choosing money market funds, the user can place investment and redemption orders directly through the system. The customer then receives immediate confirmation of Chase's receipt of all transaction orders.

Impact displays current rates, as well as historical trends for each fund. It also alerts the client to the cutoff time for this investment so the accounts can be credited or debited on the trade date.

The system then allows clients to select a money market fund and place the transaction orders involving payments from or credits to any demand-deposit account.

"Customers can view on an intraday basis, what has passed through the account, be it debits or credits," said Andra S. Marx, the Chase vice president who manages the Impact project.

"Users can then give us instructions to make an investment or a redemption on their behalf"

Investing in fixed-income securities is also made easier with the system, Ms. Emrich said.

Clients can review information concerning a particular security and maturity. The system transmits the customer's request for information to the bank's trading floor; a Chase representative there telephones a response to the customer with the exact rate of the security requested and any other pertinent information.

The Impact software provides consolidated reports on the client's investment activities in flexible formats.

Users can select how much and what kind of data will be displayed for their system, and how long it is to be retained.

A key selling point of the system is security, Ms. Emrich said, so a number of security checks have been built in.

They include passwords at all points of data retrieval or transaction initiation, and authentication of all transactions, she said.

Because Chase is one of the first banks to roll out a Windows-based service, Gemini Consulting's Mr. Schwartz expects the bank to enjoy a "first mover advantage."

But in time, as more and more banks enter the arena, he predicts the bank will lose its edge on the market.

"Basing systems in Windows is something the industry is beginning to expect and any lead for Chase will be short-lived," he said.

Meanwhile, Ms. Emrich and her global cash management colleagues continue the migration of existing products to the Windows environment.

"We're working so that we can open many doors for our customers - and windows," she said.

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