Banks using the Integrion Financial Network would not be affected if International Business Machines Corp. sold Global Network, which the on- line banking venture uses to transmit customer account information, an Integrion official said.
David S. Fortney, director of product development for Integrion, said there is "no inherent reason" why Integrion's Interactive Financial Services system-run in an IBM Global Network data center in Schaumburg, Ill.-needs to be in a data center operated by IBM.
Officials of IBM, a co-owner of Integrion, also insisted that financial institutions would receive the same level of service if the network were sold. They declined, however, to confirm or deny that a buyer was being sought, as The Wall Street Journal reported last week.
Mr. Fortney said the real value of Integrion-whose other owners are 17 banks and Visa U.S.A.-is its consulting services and the IFS system.
IFS is "the really critical portion of the technology," he said. "The network is the most commoditized aspect of the service."
Banc One Corp., NationsBank Corp., PNC Bank Corp. and Michigan National Corp. are connected to Global Network. So are on-line banking consumers who use private dial-up connections rather than the Internet.
A Banc One official said he did not think sale of IBM's network, should it happen, would hurt his company. In any case, he said, his company would take steps to make sure it did not.
"The IBM Global Network is a very robust communication network with a number of local nodes," said Bruce Luecke, general manager of interactive services for Banc One Corp. "We would require, just as we do today, that they would have service level agreements built in" to any change of ownership.
Sale of the network would not be without precedent, as telecommunications services are becoming increasingly commoditized. Last year, for example, America Online Inc. decided to sell its on-line communications system to Worldcom and lease back network time.
"IBM has a good network," said James L. Freeze, senior telecom analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., "but its officials may have come to the conclusion "that they don't want to invest the resources to upgrade and run it."
The telecommunications firms that are potential suitors of IBM's network are investing heavily to upgrade their networks, Mr. Freeze said.
Global Network mainly serves as a value-added network for transmitting electronic data interchange transactions for about 35,000 banks and other corporations. If IBM sold Global Network, it would join other such providers, including Sterling Commerce and Harbinger Corp., that lease telecommunications capacity from major carriers.