To help its financial industry clients reach small businesses on-line, Edify Corp. has introduced the Business Banking Suite.

"Banks have not done a good job targeting their small-business customers," said William A. Soward, vice president of product marketing at Santa Clara, Calif.-based Edify.

The company takes heart from a prediction by Ernst & Young that 1999 will be a breakout year for small-business banking.

The program, launched Wednesday, operates on the Edify Internet banking platform, the Electronic Banking System, which has been licensed by 80 banks worldwide, 60 running it in-house and the rest through outsourcing arrangements with NCR Corp.

Business Banking Suite includes six self-service modules that give authorized employees access to account information, allowing them to initiate transactions and communicate directly with the financial institution.

"It is a software product that dynamically presents customized views of the relationship for different business and bank users based on their preferences and access privileges," said Mr. Soward.

"Small business is an area that has been ignored by large commercial banks and software vendors, so there is a fair opportunity for Edify here," said Octavio Marenzi, research director at Meridien Research in Newton, Mass. But, he added, Edify faces the challenge of finding the people in banks responsible for small-business decision-making.

Edify's main competition here will be in-house, custom-built software developed by the likes of NationsBank Corp., Wells Fargo & Co., and First Union Corp. Edify is banking on the belief that "most of our customers want to buy packaged solutions," Mr. Soward said.

The suite supports internal transfers, wire transfers, automated clearing house transactions, stop payments, and bill payments.

On Sept. 16, Edify announced the Electronic Banking System was enhanced to allow bill presentment and payment.

"Nobody is aggregating bills today," Mr. Soward said. "We have the first solution that allows banks on-site to get a summary of billing information from as many billers as possible."

Billers can work through consolidators like TransPoint, which was formerly MSFDC, or Checkfree Corp., said Mr. Soward, but there is a standards problem. These systems do not talk to one another.

Edify's technology is designed to aggregate and manage summary information from one or more bill consolidators so that a bank can present a consolidated view of invoices to enrolled customers. They can, in turn, make automatic payments. An e-mail alert service would notify customers when bills are posted.

Consumers would find bill presentment attractive when they can have multiple bills delivered each month, Mr. Soward said.

There is also a checkbook feature with on-line transaction registry, permitting automatic reconciliation, expense categorization, and budget analysis.

Net.Bank of Atlanta, until recently known as Atlanta Internet Bank, will test the software.

Edify's bank customers include Chase Manhattan Bank, Busey Bank, City National Bank, Dollar Bank, First American National Bank, and Signet Bank. The vendor counts 14 of the top 100 banks in the United States as its customers.

"In terms of bill payment and bill presentment, Edify is more aggressive than any other vendor," Mr. Marenzi said. "Its solution is ahead of the curve."

"Edify is more of an in-house developer of bill payment and presentment," said David Medeiros, group director at Tower Group, a research firm in Massachusetts. This is in contrast to vendors such as Digital Insight, nFront, and Security First Technologies, which have outsourcing activities.

With the latest software releases, Mr. Medeiros said, Edify is headed in the right direction. "It is picking up the trend that automated bill payment and presentment are no longer constrained to the big banks and big corporations," he said.

Electronic Banking System's latest release, its third, and the Business Banking Suite will begin shipping in the fourth quarter.

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