Digital Equipment Corp. is quietly phasing out a branch automation system designed for cross-selling to bank customers.

The company introduced the DECbank system with much fanfare only two years ago. Now the plan is to replace it with software acquired last year that runs on the Unix operating system, Digital officials said.

Unix-based software is gaining popularity in banks because it can run on hardware from a number of makers. DECbank works only on DEC computers using Digital's VMS operating system. An operating system is the software that controls a computer's basic functions.

Digital, based in Maynard, Mass., also hopes to make a big splash in the banking market with the introduction next month of a high-powered Unix-based workstation. The Alpha workstation, with a high-speed, 64-bit chip by Digital, will also run VMS and DOS, the operating system used in International Business Machines Corp. personal computers.

Digital, which derived 10% of its worldwide revenue last year from sales to commercial and investment banks, has thus far been unsuccessful in providing a hardware and software system for retail bank branches.

Digital developed DECbank with Chemical Banking Corp. and deployed it two years ago at more than 100 branches.

But since then, Digital has sold the retail system to only one other customer, Ameritrust Corp. of Cleveland. Now both Chemical, in the wake of its merger with Manufacturers Hanover Trust Co., and Ameritrust, after its acquisition by Society Corp., are in the midst of evaluating which branch office hardware and software they will keep. At least some of the Digital systems could be replaced.

Although Chemical has the DEC equipment installed in its branches, the bank is still in the process of deciding whether it will use the DEC workstations or switch to the NCR workstations that Manufacturers Hanover uses.

Digital has been more successful on the wholesale side, where it has deployed its workstations and communications equipment in trading rooms such as Bankers Trust's.

Now Digital is pinning its hopes on a newly acquired retail banking system based on Unix system. That system is based on technology that Digital acquired last November when it bought the information systems division of Philips NV. The Philips software is already deployed in banks in Europe.

Digital has revamped the technology to accommodate features required by U.S.-based banks, and plans to start marketing it in the United States next year. One U.S. bank is testing the system, and Digital is talking to other customers about it, said Norman Goldberg, head of worldwide financial systems marketing at Digital.

End of an Era

"We're not going to market the VMS product," Mr. Goldberg said. "We'll work with our existing customers to migrate over to Unix."

Citibank's European operations and Banco Bilbao Vasquez have purchased the Unix-based system, said Mr. Goldberg.

"If Digital is moving toward Unix, then that's a plus," said Allen Gula Jr., executive vice president of information technology at Society Corp.

"Ameritrust went with DEC because it was more flexible in dealing with the oddities of their environment," said Mr. Gula.

However, "it's not clear to me how long [the software] will be maintained, and it's based on technology that may be obsolete," Gula said.

Society is evaluating hardware and software for its 400 or so retail branches. "We would rule out any closed-systems environment for the future," Mr. Gula said.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.