Bowne & Co., a 223-year-old financial printer, is transforming itself through acquisitions into a provider of Internet banking software.

During the past 15 months New York-based Bowne has completed five acquisitions to create a unit called Bowne Internet Solutions.

Its two most recent purchases, completed this month, were of Open Sesame of Cambridge, Mass., and Mountain Lake Software Corp. of Toronto. Terms of the deals were not disclosed.

In February, Bowne completed deals for Quadravision, based in Toronto, and Sitewerks, based in Seattle. In March 1997, it bought Detroit-based Internet Factory.

Bowne Internet Solutions, now with 280 professionals, hopes to carve a niche in the Internet banking software market by offering software that personalizes the Internet experiences of financial services customers.

"We believe personalization and relationship marketing are where the financial services sector needs to go on the Internet in order to serve customers," said John Long, chief executive officer of Bowne Internet Solutions and former chief executive officer of Quadravision.

Bowne is not the only vendor that anticipates a growing market for Internet personalization software.

In April two other personalization vendors were acquired. Firefly Network Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., was bought by Microsoft Corp., and WiseWire Corp. of Pittsburgh was bought by Lycos Inc.

But Mr. Long said the financial services sector "will leverage this world quicker than other sectors. There's a good deal of trust between individuals and their banks," he said.

Most banks, he said, need help mining their customer information files. "These latest two acquisitions give us the ability to do that."

Open Sesame's software monitors the browsing and buying behavior of Internet users to learn their interests and preferences.

This software is intended to complement Bowne's Me! Relationship System, acquired from Quadravision, which delivers content according to a customer's profile information.

"With Open Sesame, we've taken our software and expertise to the next level," Mr. Long said. Open Sesame's customers include Ericsson, iVillage, and Let's Talk Business.

Mountain Lake is an Internet engineering firm that specializes in Java- based software that can be reused and reassembled for various Internet applications. Its clients include several of Canada's largest financial institutions.

Buying Mountain Lake "allows us to add expertise in middleware," Mr. Long said.

Current Bowne customers include Fleet Financial, New York Life, Summit Bank, and mbanx, a division of Bank of Montreal.

Bowne aims to continue its acquisition strategy. "Our focus is to put together an entire solution," Mr. Long said. "We're combining our component software with professional services to make it work."

The company intends to work closely with the electronic commerce groups within banks, to transfer what it knows about personalization. "Banks need to come up the learning curve quickly," Mr. Long said.

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