Banc One Corp. is working with Open Market Inc. to provide secure transactions over the Internet.
The Columbus, Ohio-based banking company has already put in place the electronic infrastructure that will allow merchants to securely sell their goods and services over the vast web of computer networks. Banc One officials intend to begin limited testing of the service early next month with RoweCom Inc., a company that handles publication subscription renewals electronically.
According to Steve Dieringer, manager of electronic products for Banc One, this is just a hint of the superregional's ambitious plans for a broad electronic services initiative.
"We're looking at the Internet as a forum for everything we do," Mr. Dieringer said.
In the pilot, a handful of libraries will be able to order and pay for their new subscriptions via a PC-based system, using RoweCom as a conduit to the publishers. Open Market and Banc One will manage the financial information and the flow of funds in the transactions.
Officials from Banc One and Open Market first met almost a year ago when they joined CommerceNet, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based group of companies focused on doing business on the Internet. Senior executives from both companies have been in serious discussions since December, Mr. Dieringer said, mapping out plans for the proposed system and even running a few live transactions with RoweCom. Four to six libraries and two or three major publishers will participate in the first leg of the on-line transaction pilot, Mr. Dieringer said.
RoweCom presents a particularly good fit for this project because of its electronic-based premise and because it speaks to "a business that has many inefficiencies and makes it more efficient," according to Jonathan Guerster, director of financial services at Open Market.
This is how the service works: The library uses its specially formatted software to select the subscriptions it needs. Librarians digitally sign the request on their end using code. The transaction is then transmitted to the secure Web server at Open Market; this transaction server is to be ported to Banc One as soon as the bank's computer firewall security systems are improved, Mr. Dieringer said.
At the server level, the digital signature is confirmed. A payment order is sent, and Banc One debits the library's account for the necessary funds, which are in turn moved to Banc One. The payment is then forwarded to the publisher through a clearing house. Finally, a payment confirmation is sent to the library's bank.
Mr. Dieringer would not disclose the fees associated with these transactions.
Banc One is the second bank to sign on with Open Market, a year-old Cambridge, Mass., company that facilitates banking and electronic transactions through its software products and services.
In March, First Union Corp. inked a deal with Open Market to deliver home banking and related commercial services over the Internet. Using Open Market's software, First Union announced that it would create computerized "storefronts" for merchants to do business over computer networks.
Open Market is helping Banc One create a "core platform" that will be easily expanded to incorporate various other services as well, Mr. Guerster said.
In the next stage of their partnership, Banc One and Open Market intend to add applications to allow consumers and other companies to conduct financial transactions over the Internet and the World Wide Web, the multimedia-capable annex of the Internet.
"Electronic commerce over the Internet is radically changing the way businesses interact with each other and their customers - from order processing to merchandising to customer service," said Shikar Ghosh, the chief executive officer and founder of Open Market.