Digital Equipment Corp. is looking to parlay its experience selling software to overseas banks into a successful domestic business.

The Maynard, Mass., technology company is best known for its hardware. But in recent years it has sold licenses for its Financial Business Systems software to hundreds of banks in Asia, Europe, and South America. The software gives bank representatives comprehensive views of customer relationships and can make sales suggestions.

"Digital will have to produce some significant competitive advantages to carve a niche in the American market," said James Moore, president of Mentis Corp., Durham, N.C.

Mr. Moore noted that most of the major hardware vendors, including International Business Machines Corp., Unisys Corp., NCR Corp., and Hewlett-Packard Co., began emphasizing some mix of software and services several years ago so that Digital will be playing catch-up. "They are the new player, and the advantage always goes to the incumbent," he said.

According to Goldman, Sachs & Co. analyst Laura Conigliaro, Digital "has really been trying to right itself after years of finding itself falling behind the curve."

The company tried to penetrate the U.S. banking software market in the past, but it failed because it did not make the commitment that the business demands, said Bob Landry, retail advisory services group director for Tower Group in Newton, Mass.

He said Financial Business Systems could change Digital's fortunes because it is full-functioned and is being introduced in a structured way. He praised the product's multicurrency capabilities and its flexibility.

Bringing FBS to the United States is part of a broad retooling at Digital that puts more emphasis on customer relationship management, risk management, and retail banking, said Ken Milne, Digital's marketing director for financial services in North America.

Digital Business Centre Financial Industry handles FBS abroad, and this Stockholm, Sweden-based unit, along with Comtex Information Systems of New York, will sell and support FBS in the United States.

Digital recently upgraded FBS to run in Microsoft's Windows-NT computing environment, Mr. Milne said.

"We think there is great potential in this market," said Goran Strangmark, retail banking marketing director of the Swedish unit.

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