After several months of quiet preparations, Interactive Transaction Partners is poised to make a splash in the home banking market, its chief executive officer said last week.
J. Randall Peyser, president of the joint venture by three powerful technology providers, including Electronic Data Systems Corp., said his company is on the verge of naming an initial group of up to seven financial institutions that will use its system for electronic banking and bill-paying.
The venture, which is counting for its success on financial institutions' need to enter alliances to get up to speed on the information highway, also announced an alliance of its own at the American Bankers Association's national operations and automation conference.
Automatic Voice Response
This arrangement, with InterVoice Inc. of Dallas, makes InterVoice's automatic voice response system available to users of Interactive Transaction Partners' electronic bill-payment service.
"Alliances like the relationship between InterVoice and ITP will be the foundation of success stories in the emerging interactive marketplace," Mr. Peyser said at the ABA event in San Francisco.
Interactive Transaction Partners, or ITP, caused an immediate stir when it came on the home banking scene last fall, if only because of its three "partners": EDS, the computer services giant based in Plano, Tex.; U S West, the Colorado-based regional telecommunications company; and France Telecom, the international pioneer of interactive, mass-market information services.
The companies said they would build a utility for electronic transaction services using their existing resources, including interactive software jointly developed by U S West and France Telecom, the latter's experience of installing seven million Minitel home terminals in France, and EDS' on-line connections with up to 10,000 financial institutions.
Onetime EDS Executive
Mr. Peyser, the former head of EDS' electronic financial and information transaction unit, said at the announcement in November that ITP would champion "device independence." That meant a participant in its network could choose from among touch-tone or screen telephones, personal computers, kiosks, portable communications devices, or other means of delivering remote services.
ITP was also premised upon giving consumers control over when and where they did business and on letting banks offer ITP's facilities on a "private-label basis."
"Our charter is to facilitate others' entry into this marketplace," Mr. Peyser said in last fall's ITP announcement, made at the Bank Administration Institute's retail delivery systems conference in New Orleans.
The joint venture, based in Bedminster, N.J., appears only slightly behind its original timetable, which called for beta testing in the first quarter and a rollout in April.
5 Service Components
At the ABA's operations conference last week, another of the industry's major technology gathering places, Mr. Peyser and his director of marketing, Frank Brander from U S West, handed out color brochures. They were titled "Facilitating Your Entry Into the Interactive Marketplace" and explained each service component:
* BankIT, for general interactive banking services.
* PayIT, the bill-paying service for consumers and small businesses.
* BillIT, electronic billing and invoicing services for payees.
* BuyIt, a payment mechanism for multimedia services such as pay-per-view entertainment and home shopping.
* MailIT, an electronic mail service.
In a speech during the ABA conference, Mr. Peyser pointed to a "paradigm shift" in the structure of the electronic information market.
In the traditional view, he said, telecommunications networks acted as intermediaries between "content providers" - including banks, nonbank financial and service companies, educational entities, catalog retailers, etc. - and the home transaction devices.
"There is a role for a new entity" on a par with the telecommunications utilities, Mr. Peyser said. He called it an "application/service intermediary," which facilitates all potential linkages.
In this role, he said, ITP can ease banks' entry into the new electronic marketplace. It's a natural fit for EDS, he added, because as an ATM and credit card processor it is expert in the acquisition, processing, authorization, settlement, and reporting of transactions - the same functions that must be done in customer-initiated bill-paying and home banking.
Supported by that infrastructure, banks can concentrate on strengthening their brand identities and customer relationships, while ITP absorbs the risk associated with choosing one type of delivery device over another.
"You may not want to invest in a screen phone, fearing it will be obsolete in a year," Mr. Peyser said. "We'll take that [risk] on."
He told his audience to take a lesson from ITP and its partners: "We compete as well as cooperate. Set up as a separate entity, we show the importance of alliances."
Working with InterVoice
The agreement with InterVoice calls for development of a standard application interface between that firm's RobotOperator/Bill Payment software and ITP's PayIT. Both companies will market the program to current and prospective customers. InterVoice has installations in more than 1,000 banks.
"With our two companies integrating technologies and applications," Mr. Peyser said, "financial institutions can quickly launch their own interactive services in an easy and cost-effective manner."
Tom Hunse, InterVoice's vice president of marketing, said the ITP alliance broadens its product range and "gives customers many options to enhance their services portfolio."