A leading French provider of home banking technology is turning its attention to the U.S. market.

Paris-based CosmosBay Corp., which counts 9 of the top 10 French banks as customers, officially enters the fray today with the opening of an office in Wellesley, Mass.

The company has much experience in on-line services. Its software lies at the heart of almost half the services delivered through Minitel, a system developed by France Telecom in 1980 to bring French consumers and businesses on-line. Today 20 million consumers have access to 25,000 Minitel services via screen phones.

Analysts said the company faces stiff competition and could have a tough time despite its pedigree.

"The market is so fragmented, it will be a tough sell no matter what they do," said Chris Stevens, electronic commerce analyst at the Aberdeen Group in Boston.

"Although its technology architecture is consistent with what the industry is adopting, it needs to hone in specifically on business problems and articulate its message properly."

CosmosBay executives said they are prepared for a rough road initially.

"We need to do some catch-up here," said Nathan Pieri, vice president of marketing and business development. "We're trying to establish a beachhead in on-line banking and bill pay with an application that can interact with a browser interface and has secure log-on." He said Checkfree Corp. will act as CosmosBay's bill payment processor.

In the software business, CosmosBay expects to compete with Security First Technologies, Edify Corp., BroadVision Inc., and Online Resources and Communications Corp.

It also plans to provide network integration services. Competitors in that market will include NetDynamics Inc. and Kiva Software Corp.

CosmosBay was founded in Paris in 1988 to provide technology for Minitel. The company makes software applications and provides a three-tier architecture for a variety of industries, including banking, brokerage, insurance, and telecommunications.

In the United States it initially plans to target midtier and community banks.

Mr. Stevens said CosmosBay's experience with Minitel and in transaction processing are a plus. "But I don't think they're there quite yet with the application level functionality," he said.

The company's on-line banking software can support multiple delivery channels, including the Internet. It employs the hypertext mark-up language (HTML) used in Web programming and adheres to the two major home banking technical standards in the United States-Open Financial Exchange and Gold.

The company's products are designed to let banks deliver services tailored to individual users.

"We want to show the U.S. market that we can deploy a bank with a good quality product that is based on templates which can be personalized," said Olivier Gachot, chief executive officer of CosmosBay.

Two of CosmosBay's main products-the Online Banking System and CosmosSuite-are available immediately. Pricing starts at $60,000.

The company plans to have 25 U.S. employees by the end of next year-60% of which will focus on technical support. It employs about 40 people in France.

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