Hibernia National Bank is using wireless technology to tell its corporate customers when money transferred by wire has been received.
The service, which has been available for about six months but was announced only last week, puts $16 billion-asset Hibernia in the vanguard among U.S. banks incorporating wireless delivery into corporate cash management services. Another midsize bank, $66 billion-asset Wachovia Corp., is planning to roll out a fuller set of wireless services to its corporate customers in the fourth quarter.
Forty to 50 of Hibernia's commercial customers have been receiving immediate notification of incoming wire transfers through their pagers, cell phones, or e-mail.
"Our customers didn't want to keep dialing in to see if their wires had arrived," said Jeffrey Cross, the senior product manager for electronic treasury management services at the New Orleans bank. "We believe our customers want to get on to our system, do their work, and get off."
Prime examples of customers who desire instant notifications are shippers and title lawyers, Mr. Cross said. A shipper might be holding up a ship's cargo until payment is received. Title lawyers might be waiting for wire transactions before transferring title to property. Upon notification, the transfers can be completed.
"There is a whole range of customers who need to know their wires are in," Mr. Cross said.
For more information about their cash positions, customers can dial into the bank's TowerNet cash management service, accessible through a closed, proprietary network. An Internet version of TowerNet is to be introduced within the next two months.
Small businesses do not have to use TowerNet to receive wireless notifications. "We're continuing, through our wireless application, to drive down to small businesses," Mr. Cross said.
Hibernia is evaluating letting customers conduct transactions over wireless devices, but Mr. Cross said, "We have not seen the demand from our customers."
Transactions are one of the features that Wachovia plans to include in its wireless service, which it will test with 10 to 15 corporate customers in the third quarter.
Hibernia's corporate customers range from small businesses with fewer than four employees, to mid-market firms with revenues of $10 million to $50 million, to large corporations with more than $50 million of revenue.
About 1,700 of Hibernia's customers use TowerNet, which carries about 1,000 transfers worth billions of dollars every day. The system was largely responsible for an 80% increase in balance reporting and transaction initiation revenue over the last year, Mr. Cross said.
The bank's treasury management team developed TowerNet in 1998. "We built the TowerNet system in-house because our system vendor wasn't prepared to do the things we were ready to do," Mr. Cross said.
TowerNet has since been enhanced with the wireless function and intraday, prior day, and multibank-balance reporting. About 23 reports are available, including statements and loan and electronic data interchange information. Bank officers in 37 of Hibernia's offices in Louisiana and Texas can access the system.
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