HNC Software Inc., which makes a widely used credit card fraud detection system, has joined forces with a provider of home banking technology to promote credit cards over the Internet.

San Diego-based HNC said it will provide its decision-support capability in an alliance with Destiny Software Corp. of Conshohocken, Pa.

The companies hope their combined systems will help financial institutions refine their marketing of credit cards by enabling immediate decisions on applications.

Eventually, the companies plan to offer other products, including consumer, auto, and home equity loans.

"As the Internet becomes a truly mass-market medium, it is a terrific place to target," said Lucinda Duncalfe, chief executive officer of Destiny.

She called the company's work in facilitating credit card campaigns "a pretty natural progression" from providing transactional capabilities for financial institution Web sites such as those of BankAmerica Corp. and Banc One Corp.'s First USA Inc.

GE Capital Services and Advanta Corp. have also worked with Destiny on fine-tuning their credit card marketing, she said.

Using a program called Granite Sculptor, credit card issuers can customize their campaigns and gauge reactions to advertisements on different Web sites.

HNC's year-old Capstone software provides the real-time decision-making capabilities using the same neural network technology, a variant of artificial intelligence that it has employed in its Falcon anti-fraud product. Falcon, used by 23 of the 25 largest banks, identifies patterns in vast amounts of transaction data that may indicate fraud.

HNC claims that Falcon, which costs 5 to 20 cents per cardholder account annually, has saved the industry more than $100 million in fraud losses.

"The strength of this technology is that there isn't a need to update rules," said Mark Wolfenberger, an analyst with Deutsche Morgan Grenfell. "It can interpret changes" in consumer behavior as they occur, he said.

Neural technology essentially replaces "a programmer looking at the data in real time and suggesting and making changes continuously," he added.

"Providing instant credit decisions over the Internet will revolutionize the way financial institutions acquire customers and book new assets," said Robert North, HNC chief executive officer. "The winners will be the card issuers who quickly adopt the Internet as an account-acquisition vehicle."

Capstone has been sold to 15 financial institutions, including card issuers AT&T and Advanta, said HNC vice president Larry Spelhaug.

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