Banc One Corp. has become the first member of the Integrion home banking consortium to say it will take advantage of newly available bill presentment capabilities.
The Columbus, Ohio, banking company said it will combine electronic bill presentment with other offerings to create a pioneering and fully integrated Internet-based service package.
The early move is characteristic of Banc One, an enthusiastic supporter of Integrion Financial Network, which has 19 owners and has been closely associated with International Business Machines.
Banc One has also moved aggressively toward electronic bill presentment. Still in the formative stages and shaping up as a strategic battleground for banks and system providers, the technology will allow consumers to receive, review, and pay bills over the Internet.
Banc One has not only signed on for Integrion's bill presentment system, which is based on technology provided by Checkfree Corp. of Atlanta. The bank is also one of four financial institutions in the pilot group of MSFDC, the competing joint venture of Microsoft Corp. and First Data Corp.
MSFDC announced last week that Merrill Lynch & Co. had become the first brokerage firm to say it will pilot the system this year.
Bruce Luecke, Banc One's president of interactive delivery services, said it views its involvement with MSFDC as a test separate from Integrion.
"I would consider this (Integrion) the real way that we will do it," Mr. Luecke said last week.
Checkfree, the leading bill payment processor that entered into a formal alliance with Integrion last year, will establish relationships with billers and provide the technical backbone for the Integrion presentment service.
Integrion, meanwhile, will integrate bill presentment into its broader package of electronic services.
Mr. Luecke said Banc One's interest is in "deepening the relationships we have with our customers by continually providing innovative and superior service. ... We will deliver an unparalleled level of choice and flexibility in on-line banking and bill payment."
"No matter who originates the bill-Checkfree, the biller, or MSFDC-it will flow into Integrion's system so that we can present the consumer with a common interface," he added.
"If we are going to service our retail customers in the best way, we have to accept the bill from whomever," Mr. Luecke said, while customers will "never really know who is the middleman presenting the bill."
Banc One and NationsBank were the first to say they would use Integrion's Interactive Financial Services system. The Ohio company's bill presentment intentions may give two-year-old Integrion another boost. Other Integrion member-owners include Banc One merger partner First Chicago NBD Corp., NationsBank partner BankAmerica Corp., Citicorp, Fleet Financial Group, PNC Bank Corp., Royal Bank of Canada, and Visa International.
The desired "seamless" linkage with MSFDC will require technical differences to be overcome, perhaps similar to the way Integrion's data interchange standard, Gold, is being reconciled with the OFX approach endorsed by Checkfree, Intuit Inc., and Microsoft Corp.
"In our discussions with Checkfree and MSFDC we have said, 'You are going to have to figure this out, because I am not going to spend a lot of time doing different things. If you want to work with us, work it out,"' Mr. Luecke said.
"The only way Internet-based banking will gain widespread acceptance is with the continual development of integrated Internet-based financial services that give consumers easy access to multiple transactions," said William M. Fenimore, chief executive officer of Integrion.
He said its bill presentment announcement "signals the beginning of a marketplace for truly integrated on-line financial services."
Checkfree, meanwhile, will continue to offer E-bill, its own electronic bill presentment service, to financial institutions such as Chase Manhattan Corp. that are not Integrion participants. Checkfree said it has relationships with 23 major billers and has been providing services to Banc One since 1991.
Checkfree chairman and chief executive officer Peter J. Kight said Banc One's vote for the Integrion-Checkfree package "clearly marks a new era of sophisticated on-line financial services being offered to consumers through the trusted agent-their bank." He called Banc One "a driving force behind the rapid expansion of on-line financial management."
Mr. Fenimore also emphasized the "bank-branded" philosophy that he said Integrion and Checkfree share. It allows a bank to "customize the look and feel of its bill presentment service."
They said a Banc One customer with any standard Internet browser will get "single log-on" convenience for enrollment in and activation of electronic financial services. Bills will be payable from an on-line summary page or by clicking to pages with complete bill details.
Customization is also a selling point at MSFDC, which is working with 11 billers and now five pilot institutions: Integrion members Banc One, KeyCorp, and Norwest Corp., plus Wells Fargo & Co. and Merrill Lynch.
Merrill said it intends to tailor MSFDC's system for its Merrill Lynch OnLine clients, enhancing an existing bill payment service.
"MSFDC has found innovative ways to enhance the relationships between financial institutions and their clients, and we look forward to working with them," said Allen Jones, senior vice president and director of private client marketing for Merrill Lynch.