In June, when President Clinton signed a law that gave digital signatures the same legal weight as their pen-and-ink equivalents, the banking industry was jubilant.

E-commerce would flourish in new and unforeseen ways, they said, and banks, as holders of the certificates needed to authenticate digital signatures, would be at the center of it all. Five months later, that vision is still far from reality, but a handful of banks are taking advantage of opportunities in the digital certificate business. Zions Bancorp, which runs a subsidiary called Digital Signature Trust, has been doing the most to promote digital signatures since well before the law was passed, and now some of the companies issuing smart cards are making the technology available to consumers.

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