In a move that will add needed volume to a recently launched payment system, PNC Bank Corp. of Pittsburgh has joined the EDI Bank Alliance Network Exchange, or Edibanx.

Operated by the Chicago Clearing House Association, Edibanx was developed by 13 top cash management banks, including NationsBank Corp., BankAmerica Corp., Mellon Bank Corp., and Harris Bankcorp.

Edibanx competes with financial electronic data interchange services from the National Automated Clearing House Association.

PNC is the second financial institution beyond the founding group to join Edibanx. Chase Manhattan Corp. was the first.

The new additions could "build some real momentum" for Edibanx, said Larry Forman, a cash management consultant with New York-based Ernst & Young.

"The more that join, the harder it will be to resist, which is probably what Edibanx is counting on."

Edibanx began limited operations in October 1994. It handles just several hundred financial EDI transactions daily.

Financial electronic data interchange transactions are corporate-to- corporate payments and trade-related documents sent through the banking system in standard computer formats.

Most EDI-capable financial institutions are large players in the cash management business. However, even those institutions whose customers have demanded the service have embraced EDI cautiously because of the high hardware and software expenses involved.

The ACH network handles the vast majority of electronic data interchange payments.

Daniel J. Pavlick, vice president with PNC, believes membership in Edibanx will enable the bank to process EDI transactions more efficiently. Edibanx's "pure EDI" standards allow members to avoid converting payments and information to and from automated clearing house formats.

Another benefit of Edibanx, bank officials said, is its on-line trading partner directory, which is commonly known as the "Yellow Pages" for corporations searching for EDI-capable trading partners.

"This is probably one of the most exciting things for our customers," said James G. Graham, PNC's senior vice president. "We've been quite a leader in EDI for many years, but this really expands our ability to transact business on behalf of our clients."

PNC plans to begin processing transactions through the service in the fourth quarter.

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