Its network to exchange financial information on corporate transactions is dead, but Edibanx is pursuing a future in electronic commerce.

The four-year-old venture led by the Chicago Clearing House Association has launched Edibanx for Commerce, an effort to adapt and broaden its financial electronic data interchange mission.

"The need of the marketplace has changed," said Angie Chin, Chicago Clearing House senior vice president. "It's much broader than just the financial (EDI) portion."

Edibanx-EDI Bank Alliance Network Exchange-began as a proprietary network for financial EDI. It had 15 dues-paying bank members, attracted to the idea because of concerns their lockbox businesses might be obsoleted by emerging technologies.

The network was shut down March 31 after several banks pulled out or merged.

NationsBank Corp. left in March because it "decided to go in another direction," said Rick Leander, senior vice president. The bank now uses electronic commerce software from Netscape Communications Corp.

Edibanx for Commerce, developed by the clearing house and Plano, Tex.- based Electronic Data Systems Inc., is an Internet browser-based system that lets companies transmit purchase and payment orders and invoices, Ms. Chin said.

Users click on the document they want to send, then on the trading partner they want to send it to. The software automatically maps information from purchase orders to invoices and remittance forms.

Businesses can transmit the data via the Internet, intranets, or extranets. Edibanx uses the Secure Sockets Layer standard for data security, plus smart cards and digital signatures for authentication.

Many banks are developing electronic commerce products to help increase transaction volumes, said Richard Bort, a Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based consultant. Edibanx will have to establish a niche to succeed, he said.

Edibanx' software packages vary, with simpler systems offering only a document transmission capability, and more sophisticated ones providing video conferencing and notification of payments received.

Banks can buy the software and resell it to their corporate customers, mainly small and medium-size businesses, said Kenith Lewis, Edibanx director at EDS.

The software costs between $3,000 and $4,000 for Chicago Clearing House member banks.

There is also a fixed monthly cost of less than $100, as well as a per- transaction fee, which Ms. Chin declined to reveal. Banks would determine what to charge their customers for the service.

Two major banks and several smaller financial institutions, which Ms. Chin would not identify, are piloting the software.

Edibanx is also supplying small businesses with the software, so the banks can conduct testing with them.

Stephen O'Malley, co-owner of Modern Home Service Center Corp. in Summit, Ill., said he found Edibanx for Commerce simple and speedy. He said he wants to expand his electronic commerce capability.

"We intend to go further with this to improve our image ... and increase our sales," he said.

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