A small Texas bank has beefed up its cash management capabilities in order to retain the business of some large corporate customers.

Amarillo National Bank, which has a modest $1.2 billion of assets, has licensed software from San Francisco-based Bankserv to automate its wire transfer operations. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Several of the bank's corporate customers are installing accounting software that uses electronic data interchange formats to originate electronic payments, said Ross Kerns, vice president and comptroller of the bank. These customers expect to double their wire transfer volumes in the next several months, he said.

"They basically said we would lose their business if we couldn't" handle the volume, Mr. Kerns said.

Many of the bank's 8,000 commercial accounts could easily switch to larger banks, Mr. Kerns said, but they would lose the personal attention they get at Amarillo National.

"A big commercial customer to us might not be a 'big boy' to Bank of America," he said. "When they call us at the last minute with a problem, we are able to jump through hoops and help them resolve issues quicker than a large bank. I think our customers recognize that and would hate to give that up."

David Kvederis, president and chief executive officer of Bankserv, said, "Cash management services are becoming increasingly important to community banks. For them to compete, they have to provide the technology."

Amarillo National originates about 125 wire transfers a day through a Fedline terminal from the Federal Reserve System. But using Fedline is tedious and labor-intensive, Mr. Kerns said.

Bank employees take customer requests for wire transfers over the phone, type the data into the Fedline terminal, and manually check a list maintained by the government's Office of Foreign Asset Control, an enforcement agency of the U.S. Treasury.

Bankserv has sold its Global Funds Exchange wire transfer software and Internet-based cash management products to 20 banks, including Commercial Bank of San Francisco and Fiduciary Trust International of New York, since it began operations a year ago.

The company processes transactions at its data centers using client/server technology bought from Wells Fargo & Co. in 1995. Wells had built the system from scratch but never used it, deciding instead to use a wire transfer system that it obtained in the acquisition of First Interstate Bancorp in 1996.

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