First National Bank of Chicago has taken to the information superhighway, bringing its products and services to the attention of computer owners on the popular America Online network.
The First Chicago Corp. unit said last week that it had become the first bank to establish a site on America Online, which has more than three million subscribers.
The move is an initial step in an "alternative delivery" strategy to appeal to the growing number people who want to bank via personal computer. While First Chicago is far from alone among banks exploring interactive services, it is assuming an aggressive posture that will extend to the Internet, the global web capable of reaching tens of millions of users.
The bank's presence on America Online, which has recently grown larger than its interactive competitors Compuserve and Prodigy, and a related one on the smaller Chicago Online network are purely promotional.
Live transactions eventually will flow over the Internet's World Wide Web.
The bank plans to open its Internet home page within two months. Transaction functions would then go live in another four months.
"Our presence on AOL and the Web will make access to information on First Chicago's products and services even more convenient," said James M. Grant, senior vice president and head of electronic banking.
The interactive approach was developed independently of, but is complementary to, First Chicago's pending merger partner, NBD Bancorp of Detroit. Tim Kemp, a First Chicago product manager, said NBD is one of several banks on the Prodigy system, a joint venture of IBM Corp. and Sears, Roebuck and Co.
First Chicago is spicing up its financial product and service information with weekly trivia contests. The bank will ask browsers to name, say, the largest currency denomination ever printed by the U.S. Treasury. (It was a $10,000 bill.) Winners will receive small prizes.
Taking a stab at life-cycle marketing, the bank also plans to offer a "This Is Your Life" game, loosely reminiscent of the old television program. The on-line page will allow browsers to click on an icon for a certain phase of their lives - raising kids or retirement, for example - and get ideas on how to teach children to save or how to prepare for old age.
People would learn about First Chicago products and services on America Online and Chicago Online, according to Mr. Kemp, then move onto the Web to do banking transactions. The bank's blue coin logo will be the icon that users click on to gain access.
Mr. Kemp said the bank chose America Online because it was viewed as the easiest to use and the fastest growing of the on-line services.
He said bank officials have not decided how they will merge First Chicago and NBD on-line functions. The banks announced their merger July 12. The deal is expected to be completed in early 1996, creating the Midwest's biggest bank.
Mr. Kemp said the bank has been getting about 100 electronic mail messages a day since it went on-line last Tuesday. Only one, he said, complained about the bank's new teller fees.