Deluxe Corp. announced last week an agreement to purchase a British company specializing in software that helps banks build electronic bridges to their customers.

The acquisition agreement between Deluxe and the Software Partnership Ltd. located in Runcorn, England, is the latest move by the St. Paul-based check printer to expand its technology offerings through the Deluxe Data System's Inc. unit.

Data Base Access

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Deluxe officials said the Software partnership had revenues $8.6 million in 1993. Revenues this year are expected to reach $12.3 million, they added.

The Software Partnership's main product is a software package called sp/Architect, which the company has sold to a number of large European banks, including Barclay's Bank and Lloyds Bank in London, and Rabobank in Netherlands.

The software, which runs on hardware from Tandem Computers Inc., is designed to give bank customers easy access to various bank data bases, by using practically any device they choose - an automated teller machine, a personal computer, or an advanced telephone equipped with a display screen.

The system is part of retail delivery concept that has become known as direct banking, which Deluxe Data president James McGowan defined as, "tailoring services to the needs of the customer, whether they use a branch, an ATM, or some type of home banking."

The acquisition is the latest move to broaden Milwaukee-based Deluxe Data's product line, as the division has becoming more important contributor to to its parent's bottom line.

Revenues from the check printing business have contracted recently, due mainly to consolidation in banking and a trend towards the purchasing of checks directly, instead of through banks.

For the first quarter of 1994, Deluxe Corp.'s revenues reached $406 million, up 6% from the previous year, but sales from the check printing division fell 9%, to $216 million.

Seeking Global Reach

Deluxe Data's business has also changed. Once primarily a technology outsourcer for regional ATM networks in United States, the company has moved to increase software sales beyond banking and to expand globally, Mr. McGowan said.

"This deal gives them an entry into the U.S. banking market, and helps us strengthen our international presence," Mr. McGowan said.

"In Deluxe Data we found an organization that shares our own ambition to broaden and accelerate the use of sp/Architect," said Nigel Walsh, marketing director at the Software Partnership and one of the founders of the company in 1984. "The acquisition creates a strong new force in the electronic banking and funds-transfer market," he added.

While sp/Architect is running on Tandem computers, Mr. McGowan said another attractive feature was its client-server design, enabling it to be easily modified to run on other brands of hardware, including those that use the Unix system.

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