USAA Federal Savings Bank is testing home banking software from Servantis Systems Inc.

The San Antonio-based bank is piloting the software, which allows bank customers to conduct bill payment transactions and basic home banking from their personal computers, with about 200 employees and customers.

Bank officials plan to roll out the services to the rest of its customer base by early June, said Keith Myers, the senior vice president of operations for USAA. USAA is the first bank to test Servantis' BankAtHome software, and the bank has been working with the vendor since last fall to develop the package.

The software features a gateway function that routes information between the customer's PC and the financial institution. Mr. Myers characterized his bank's customer base as an ideal testing ground for such a product.

Based on surveys performed by the bank, 60% of USAA's customers own a personal computer, and half of those have a modem - a necessary tool for conducting home banking and bill payment transactions. He also said about 22% of the bank's customers use Quicken, the market-leading personal finance software made by Intuit Inc.

The Servantis system differs from many personal finance packages in that its gateway function allows account information to be downloaded from the bank, said Tom Cable, senior vice president and business manager for home banking products at Servantis.

Some software makers, such as Microsoft Corp. and Intuit, are moving toward partnerships with banks that would provide such connectivity for the software makers' personal finance products.

But, for now at least, Servantis is ahead of the industry giants. By emphasizing that its system is, according to Mr. Cable, "completely bank- branded and customized for the look and feel of the bank, not shrink- wrapped," Servantis is trying to make hay of the banking industry's fear of losing their brand to the likes of Microsoft.

USAA is also involved in MasterCard International's MasterBanking home banking program. The bank, which specializes in credit cards, offers its customers the option of paying bills via telephone or personal computer with MasterBanking.

Mr. Myers said USAA is keeping its range of home banking offerings open by testing a variety of software options.

"We don't want to be tied to any single software package," he said.

The Servantis home banking service will cost customers $14.95 to activate and $7.95 per month for unlimited bill payment usage and access to account information.

The bill payment portion of Servantis' BankAtHome package is actually the vendor's own Personal Transaction Teller software, which banks have been using for telephone bill payment since 1978. Mr. Cable said 25 banks, including Wells Fargo & Co., First Union Corp., Huntington Bancshares, and USAA, currently use that software.

Servantis, a prominent provider of software for electronic funds transfer and cash management, has been making greater initiatives in the burgeoning arena of home banking lately.

Earlier this month, Servantis announced it would acquire Amresco Services Inc., the home banking transaction subsidiary of Amresco Holdings Corp., for an undisclosed amount. Amresco's bank customers include BankAmerica Corp. and NationsBank Corp.

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