Moving to expand the services it offers corporations overseas, First Chicago NBD Corp. has joined Inter-Bank Online System, a cash management consortium led by Banco Santander of Spain and Royal Bank of Scotland.
The Chicago-based banking company becomes the second in the United States to join Ibos, which offers its members a super-charged version of typical correspondent bank relationships. Corporate customers of Ibos- affiliated banks are referred to other member banks when dealing across borders.
First Chicago's move, announced Thursday, illustrates the importance U.S. banks are now placing on serving multinational corporations. Cash management services for these customers have been consolidating among a handful of banks that have large international operations, said Susan Skerritt, a partner at Treasury Strategies Inc., Chicago.
First Chicago NBD, which is merging with Banc One Corp., may have joined Ibos because of its limited global footprint, she said.
"It is the best way for them to offer international capabilities to clients," Ms. Skerritt said. "I think the jury is still out whether these kinds of alliances will enable them to compete for multinational clients."
First Chicago joins the consortium with Scotiabank, Canada, and Banco Inverlat, Mexico, expanding upon a similar cash management relationship the three share across the North American Free Trade Agreement region.
Sandra Hof, vice president and project manager at First Chicago NBD, said joining Ibos will strengthen the company's international cash management capabilities "without depending on a brick-and-mortar approach."
"We will be able to serve our customers and the new Banc One customers with European cash management services," said Ms. Hof. "It's not really a money-making opportunity," she said. "We will see new customers that Ibos will refer to us as new customers for the bank."
Besides the three North American additions, Ibos includes eight European banks and First Union Corp., Charlotte, N.C. First Union became involved when it bought First Fidelity Bancorp., in which Banco Santander held a 20% stake.
Participation in Ibos involves the use of proprietary telecommunications software that is owned by the consortium, though bank participants may opt to use the Swift network.
The additions breathe new life into Ibos, which was formed in 1991 and has since been trying to attract members to its international cash management club. Ibos members agree to abide by customer service and support agreements.
In addition to Royal Bank of Scotland and Banco Santander, which own Ibos, European members include Credit Commercial de France, ING Bank, Istituto San Paolo di Torino, Kredietbank-Cera and its affiliate Credit General-Cera, Unibank, and Banco Santander Portugal (the former Banco de Comercio e Industria).
Chase Manhattan Corp., Electronic Data Systems Corp., and Goldman, Sachs & Co. have dropped out of the consortium.
JoAnne Glazer, a senior vice president at Chase, said the company joined the consortium when bank alliances were a key part of its corporate banking strategy. After its 1996 merger with Chemical Banking Corp., the new Chase "reevaluated its relationship" with Ibos, which included a 24.05% equity stake.
"Given the global scale, breadth and market share of Chase's current payments business, we believe we can better serve our clients by pursuing solutions more in line with our strategic plans and our diverse client base," Ms. Glazer said.
Craig Dees, a spokesman at Electronic Data Systems, said the Plano, Tex.-based company joined Ibos Ltd., Ibos' software subsidiary, in 1994 to develop cash management software that could be resold to non-Ibos banks.
But Ibos members were not interested in developing a commercial system. Since EDS already did business with many Ibos participants, "we decided to sell our position back to the association," Mr. Dees said.
First Chicago, meanwhile, has been cultivating overseas alliances for the last four years.
Its largest alliance partner, Standard Chartered Bank, supplies cash management services to First Chicago's corporate customers in seven Asian nations.
"Since we have limited resources, obviously we were doing these alliances one at a time." Ms. Hof said.
"Ibos was a good choice because we get eight banks in one fell swoop."