After a five-year hiatus, Chemical Banking Corp. will again be offering personal computer-based home banking services next year.
Its decision adds another name to the list of institutions that had previously offered such services and are making new commitments to the technology. Among the other prominent names are Banc One Corp., Citicorp, and Chase Manhattan Corp.,
The Excel PC home banking service developed by Manufacturers Hanover will be made available to all Chemical retail customers after the branches are merged next year.
The Pronto Flop
Chemical dropped its pioneering Pronto PC banking service in 1988, citing high costs and insufficient consumer demand.
Chemical had teamed up with American Telephone and Telegraph Co. in the early 1980s to invest $70 million in Pronto and a similar system for small businesses called Business Banker, which was also killed.
Manufacturers Hanover, too, was a pioneer in personal-computer home banking.
But in contrast to Chemical's experience, Manufacturers Hanover's Excel has anchored a successful business.
"The difference between Pronto and Excel was that Excel was a profit center and Pronto was a loss center," said Joshua M. Harris, president of Jupiter Communications Co., New York, a research firm specializing in electronic information services.
Changeover Due Next Year
"We are still supporting Excel, and will be offering it to Chemical customers" when the banks' branches merge in early 1993, a Chemical spokeswoman said.
According to Mr. Harris, Manufacturers Hanover was able to turn a profit in PC home banking primarily because it struck a deal with Prodigy Services Co., White Plains, N.Y..
Prodigy, a joint venture of International Business Machines Corp. and Sears, Roebuck and Co., runs a nationwide information network used by about 1.7 million personal computer enthusiasts.
Under the deal, Manufacturers Hanover agreed to let its customers bank electronically through Prodigy if they chose not to use the Excel software to access the bank's system.
Extra Source of Volume
Manufacturers Hanover also acted as a service bureau for other institutions that offered electronic home banking through the Prodigy network.
Now 16 institutions, including Manufacturers Hanover, offer personal computer home banking through Prodigy. Most use Manufacturers Hanover as a service bureau, a Prodigy spokesman said.
Institutions that use Manufacturers Hanover as a service bureau include Boatmen's National Bank, St. Louis, and Comerica Inc., Detroit, the spokesman added.
Other big banks have revived their PC home banking systems as well. Banc One reentered the PC home banking market last year by letting customers bank through the Prodigy network after three failed attempts to market similar systems.
One of the Top Systems
Although Citicorp and Chase Manhattan never canceled their PC home banking products, both have invested in upgraded software in an effort to increase usage of their electronic services.
Mr. Harris estimated that banks need 15,000 to 20,000 subscribers to turn a profit on proprietary PC home banking systems. He said 32,000 Hanover customers use either Excel or Prodigy.
That puts Manufacturers Hanover on par with the Bank of America, the biggest operator, with 43,000 users.
Mr. Harris predicted that consumer interest in PC home banking would pick up over the next few years.
But others cautioned that PC banking would remain a niche market because consumers are more interested in banking through telephones than through personal computers.