First Chicago Corp. officials have credited new personal computer-based cash management software with boosting their electronic funds transfer business.
The Chicago-based bank holding company's success with the FirstWindow 2000 software bodes well for other large banks developing similar software for PCs.
"It's been very successful in growing our business," said Carol Wetmore, the First Chicago vice president in Charge of developing FirstWindow 2000.
People in corporate treasury offices use FirstWindow 2000 to instruct First Chicago to transfer funds through the Fed Wire, Swift, automated clearing house, and Chips payment networks.
FirstWindow 2000 is meant to supersede a number of software packages for the PC-DOS operating system that First Chicago has given to its corporate customers for years to let them obtain information and operating services from the bank.
The FirstWindow software is intended to be much easier to use than the earlier software, partly because it employs Microsoft Corp.'s Windows graphical user interface -- software that mimics the ease of use of Apple Computer Inc.'s Macintosh computers.
Several banks, including Citicorp, are developing or marketing new versions of personal computer banking software that are similar to FirstWindow 2000.
The banks hope that the new software will make it easier for corporate customers to obtain operating services, thus boosting usage and fee revenues for the banks.
This has been First Chicago's experience with FirstWindow 2000.
In the year since First Chicago began marketing the software, more than 100 companies have agreed to use it, including IBM Credit Corp. of Stamford, Conn., and Keystone Group Inc. of Boston.
Half of these companies did not do any electronic funds transfer through First Chicago before getting FirstWindow.
The new clients have delivered a 20% increase in the number of Fed Wire funds transfers First Chicago sends out.
Before introducing FirstWindow, First Chicago's annual growth in Fed Wire funds transfers was only 4%, bank officials said.
Bank officials declined to say how many funds transfer First Chicago sends out.
But these transfers are profitable, and an important source of revenue.
Revenues from fee-based services, including cash management and securities processing, represent about a third of the revenues of First Chicago's corporate and institutional bank, which in turn contributed nearly 40% of First Chicago's total revenues of $1.6 billion in the First half of this year. Fed Wire funds transfers are one of the principle parts of First Chicago's cash management business.
First Chicago officials declined to say how much money the bank spent to develop FirstWindow 2000. But between 20 and 25 people have worked full time since 1990 to develop the software, and are continuing to work on ehnancements.
Donald R. Hollis, a First Chicago executive vice president in charge of corporate operating services, said that assuming a five-year life span for FirstWindow 2000, the product is expected to deliver profits that are 10 times its development costs.
The profits arise from installation and monthly maintenance fees paid by users, plus an increase in usage of, and fees from, First Chicago's electronic funds transfer and account balance reporting services.
Chairman Takes Notice
Mr. Hollis said that FirstWindow 2000 has been so well received that First Chicago's board of directors asked Ms. Wetmore to demonstrate it at a board meeting.
"The chairman wanted to look at the product that in six weeks had delivered more new funds transfer sales than the bank had gotten in two years," he said.
First Chicago hopes to leverage its success with FirstWindow 2000 into other product areas. To that end, First Chicago is developing new versions of FirstWindow 2000 that let corporations manage checking accounts, issue commercial paper, and obtain letters of credit.