Things have been awfully quiet since NationsBank and Bank of America made a splash by acquiring Meca Software, a distant third-place company behind Intuit and Microsoft in the personal finance management (PFM) software business.

With Managing Your Money (MYM) 2.0 still trailing Quicken and Money by a hefty margin, many industry observers had written off the Trumbull, CT-based company. But after 20 months working on an interactive, object- oriented Webcasting solution for electronic banking, Meca appears poised for a comeback, says Forrester Research's Dave Weisman, director of money and technology strategies.

Meca's Webcasting solution, which pairs its MYM 4.0 and ebranch (both due out by year-end), smacks of a "if you can't beat 'em, change the format" mantra. Rather than compete with rival standard PFM packages, Meca is revolutionizing its business. Scheduled for release last month, Meca's MYM 3.0 is composed of self-contained objects, or PFM functions like bill pay or retirement planning. Building on the object-based program, MYM 4.0 uses Microsoft's ActiveX technology to create an Internet interface that will allow banks to choose the functions they'll offer to each customer as downloadable applets that can reside either on a consumer's desktop within the MYM PC banking product or on the bank's network.

But the real engine of change is ebranch, a bank-branded personal broadcast network that Meca CEO Paul Harrison calls a "direct bank" as opposed to a remote access device. ebranch uses PointCast-like Webcasting technology to transmit customized data between customer and financial institution, allowing the bank to alert customers to products targeted to their specific needs.

The Webcasting solution also has two potential revenue streams for banks: advertising on their networks and fee income for the consolidation of account data from Open Financial Exchange-compliant financial institutions. This is possible because of a partnership between Meca and Marimba Inc., developer of Castanet Webcasting technology, which Meca plans to integrate with ebranch.

As for the looming threat from Microsoft in light of its partnership with PointCast, Harrison says, "Microsoft is not now and never will be in the business of customizing software for financial institutions." Time will tell.

-prince tfn.com

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