The Integrion Financial Network has added Citicorp and First Union Corp. to its roster of owners.

Now Integrion has 20 owners-18 banking companies, Visa U.S.A., and International Business Machines Corp., which leads the home banking consortium.

Integrion's founders said they wanted to keep the total to 20. With one owner, Barnett Banks Inc., being acquired by another, NationsBank Corp., "my sense is we have room for one more," said William M. Fenimore Jr., managing director of Integrion.

The new additions are seen as a validation of Integrion's importance to the emerging home banking market.

Citicorp, a widely followed technology innovator, does not take entering into industry partnerships lightly. Although the bank has shown an increasing willingness to partner and join alliances-as demonstrated by its buying into Meca Software, which is owned by six other financial institutions, in July. But, given its long history of fierce independence, Citicorp's participation still carries some cachet.

Michael Nugent, vice president in Citicorp's advanced development group, said the decision to join is "part of our overall effort to get a billion customers by 2010."

To achieve that, "we need new distribution vehicles, so we're buying and integrating where appropriate," he said.

Citicorp began talking to Integrion in the first quarter of this year, Mr. Nugent said.

First Union initially decided against joining Integrion when the consortium was formed in September 1996. At the time the bank was committed to Visa U.S.A.'s home banking unit, Visa Interactive.

But when Integrion bought Visa Interactive in August, acquiring up to 60 bank customers in the process, First Union decided to come on board as well.

Integrion "really has become a powerhouse," said Edgar Brown, senior vice president of First Union's customer direct access division. It makes a "good deal of sense for us to join the Integrion board," he added.

Mr. Fenimore said Integrion is likely to announce several alliances with technology vendors in the coming months.

"We're in active conversation with a number of providers to the electronic commerce and remote banking industry," he said.

The goal of such alliances is to speed the introduction of new products to the consortium's client base.

At NationsBank and Banc One Corp., Integrion has installed its Interactive Financial Services platform, which provides the open architecture for a variety of home banking services.

Banc One has completed testing and now has about 15,000 customers using home banking services based on the Integrion platform.

NationsBank is due to roll out Integrion-based services this quarter. Meanwhile, four other Integrion owners expect to be in pilot by yearend and four more by the first quarter of 1998.

Mr. Fenimore noted that Integrion's ownership includes 10 of the 15 largest U.S. banks. Combined, these companies serve almost 75% of consumer households in the United States.

Despite this huge potential, Integrion has been "slow to get off the ground," said Karen Epper, an analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass.

"Integrion's greatest asset has always been the caliber of its investor owners. But to date, it has produced limited offerings," she said.

However, Mr. Fenimore is optimistic. He said he is "feeling pretty good" about where the "development and rollout of the system stands."

Integrion is focusing on creating applications for the Interactive Financial Services platform, and Mr. Fenimore expects that such development will attract more users this year.

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