collaborate on offering automated bill payment and other on-line services to the more than 3,000 banks that are Fiserv's clients. The agreement links Checkfree's automated bill payment network to the various Fiserv data processing centers that manage a whopping 50 million customer accounts for its financial institution customers, mainly community banks with assets under $1 billion. The alliance comes at a time when large banks, technology firms, and even media companies are scrambling to exploit and expand the incipient market for home banking and other services that fall under the catch phrase "electronic commerce." Personal computer heavyweights such as Microsoft Corp. and Intuit Inc. have signed up about two dozen regional banks and money-center institutions to provide home banking services using their respective brands of PC-based financial software, Microsoft Money and Quicken. And earlier this year, BankAmerica Corp. and NationsBank Corp. purchased Managing Your Money, another maker of personal finance software. But the Checkfree-Fiserv pact now could open up the home banking market to thousands of smaller banks that have until now been mainly watching the game from the sidelines. "What we think is so powerful about our alliance with Fiserv is that normally what smaller banks have had to do is wait until the big banks figure how to get it done, work out the bugs, and drive the cost down," said Pete Kight, chief executive officer of Columbus, Ohio-based Checkfree. "We can now make it incredibly easy and at a low enough cost to provide community banks with the technology only the big banks now have." George D. Dalton, Fiserv's chairman and chief executive said, "We are seeing a very high interest" among smaller financial institutions in offering home banking to their clients. He added that the publicity surrounding the recent maneuvers by Microsoft, Intuit, and others has help whet bankers' appetite for the technology. The two firms will initially offer automated bill payment services to Fiserv's outsourcing clients, where bank customers can initiate payments using a personal computer or touch-tone telephone. But Fiserv and Checkfree officials said they expect to eventually roll out other remote banking services, including on-line statements delivered to consumers' personal computers and advanced telephones equipped with display screens. Two of Fiserv's clients have already signed up for the Checkfree bill payment service: New Orleans-based Jefferson Guarantee Bank, with $300 million in assets, and $695 million-asset Merchants Bank of Burlington, Vt. Merchants Bank plans to offer the Checkfree-Fiserv service to its customers starting Nov. 15, officials said. Officials said the alliance will allow Fiserv's clients to customize their home banking products, including accessing services through a private-label version of Checkfree's PC software, or even by providing links to other personal finance programs such as Quicken or Money. The alliance also could become a major marketing boost for Checkfree, which has seen its competition increase on many fronts. Most notable of these incursions took place when Intuit ended an exclusive marketing agreement with Checkfree earlier this year, following its acquisition of National Payment Clearinghouse Inc., another bill payment processor. Separately Milwaukee-based Fiserv announced it has acquired SRS Inc. a bank data processing outsourcing business based in Austin, Tex. Financial terms were not disclosed. In other news affecting publicly held financial systems companies, electronic funds transfer software firm Transaction Systems Architects reported net income of $2.8 million, or 22 cents per share, for the fourth quarter of fiscal 1995, which ended Sept. 30. The results compared with a net loss of $3.1 million, or 24 cents per share, for the fourth quarter of fiscal 1994. The consensus of Wall Street analysts was that Omaha, Neb.-based Transaction Systems would earn 23 cents per share in the latest quarter. For the fiscal year, the company reported net income before acquisition- related charges of $10.4 million, or 84 cents per share, a 57% increase from the prior year. "Fiscal year 1995 confirmed our belief that the company will continue to benefit from the move by consumers toward electronic transactions and away from the use of cash and checks," said William Fisher, Transaction Systems president and chief executive. "Interest in our core products - software for automated teller machine and credit-debit point of sale networks - was strong, and our recently introduced home banking solution was well received by our customers."
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