Computer Associates International Inc. is the latest technology company trying to portray itself as "banker friendly" in its approach to the emerging world of electronic commerce.
The Islandia, N.Y.-based software company says its wide range of software products and existing bank relationships can give it a leg up in developing financial services systems for the information superhighway.
Computer Associates is pursuing this course at a time when Microsoft Corp., the only larger software company, is striking fear in many bankers' hearts.
Many are wary of Microsoft's recent acquisition of Intuit Inc., provider of the dominant brand of personal finance software, and its plan to build a vast interactive network for delivery of financial and other services to personal computers. Computer Associates is playing into the notion of Microsoft as the enemy, while accentuating its status as a provider of core banking software to gain the support of financial institutions for its offerings on the front and back ends of home and other remote banking transactions.
"The synergy is so obvious with our banking products," said Mark Combs, a senior vice president for research and development with Computer Associates. "They [banks] are looking very closely at Microsoft ... there's a lot of speculation. But we're in the software business purely and simply and our customers know that."
Among others putting themselves forward as Microsoft counterweights are Block Financial Corp., a competitor of Intuit that has struck a marketing alliance with Visa; Checkfree Corp., a bill-payment processor that has allied itself with MasterCard International; and Interactive Transaction Partners, which provides processing and related support to institutions offering home banking.
ITP is a joint venture of Electronic Data Systems Corp., U S West, and France Telecom.
Computer Associates - which has made its name in large-scale applications software for banks and other institutions - has never established much of a presence among average consumers.
It contrasts that record with the likes of Microsoft and Intuit's Quicken software, whose well-established consumer brands are part of the threat some bankers perceive. Among large banks, Computer Associates is best known for its Infopoint products - core processing software for mainframe computers. Company officials claim that Infopoint is used by 60% of banks with assets of more than $1 billion.
The software is used to process checks, create electronic images, and produce financial reports, among other functions.
For the past 3 1/2 years, Infopoint's financial industry base had been handled by a joint venture of Computer Associates and a specialized bank-software firm, the Newtrend Group. Computer Associates took control of Infopoint when it bought out its partner last month.
The big software vendor is seeking to encourage its banking customers to build on top of Infopoint a gateway to on-fine computer network capabilities.
A press release from Computer Associates shortly after it took back Infopoint said that the company views the product line "as a potentially important piece of the online software puzzle."
Mr. Combs added, "Infopoint could be tied into an on-line service just by adding additional computer networking gear."
Going against Quicken, Block Financial's Managing Your Money, and Microsoft's less successful Money product, Computer Associates released its own personal finance software five months ago, called laplinger's Simply Money.
Computer Associates officials claim that more than one million consumers use Simply Money, but almost all of those copies were given away in a marketing push when the first version hit the shelves in June. A second version of the software was released in October.
Computer Associates is attempting to turn the tide among consumers and enlist the banks' help by playing up the notion that Microsoft is after their customers.
"We don't believe the culture of Microsoft is in sync with banking America," said George Kafkarkou, the general manager of Computer Associates' recently formed consumer products unit. "Bill Gates [Microsoft's chairman] is smart - so smart that he wants to become banking America."
Mr. Kafkarkou claimed that Computer Associates is nearing a deal with a banking industry "enabler" that would help achieve its electronic commerce objectives.
He would not disclose whether the partner is a bank, but said there would be no attempt to "discriminate from one bank to another."
Electronic Data Systems Corp., the Plano, Tex.-based company involved in Interactive Transaction Partners and other information highway initiatives, might make a nice fit.
EDS and Computer Associates signed a 12-year partnership agreement in May, putting aside years of legal wrangling.
They have recently been dealing with each other on better terms than ever. EDS bought the Newtrend Group software that Computer Associates did not want to hold on to in the Infopoint repossession.
"We are hungry for personal finance software - within a year we'll have the best product," Mr. Kafkarkou said.