Huntington National Bank in Columbus, Ohio, helped pioneer Internet banking with its 1996 launch of a Web site that has attracted customers in 44 states. But the current high-tech explosion takes no prisoners among banks that fall

behind. So The Huntington has moved quickly to beef up its on-line services to remain competitive and expand its customer base.

Like that of other banks, the improved Web site provides transactional capabilities so that customers can pay bills and reconcile accounts, as well as link business and personal banking services-all without proprietary bank software. "Customers don't get involved with software," says Chet Thompson, Huntington svp and manager of electronic commerce. "All you need is a computer that can access the Internet and a secure browser."

You can see the difference in the Web bank's look and feel, says Thompson. "You can go to your account immediately upon entering the site. The site contains special tools, like calculators and even a primer on how to qualify for a mortgage. Our customers will, in time, even be able to get cash from the site." The site is colorful, with moving visuals designed to attract the tech-savvy 25- to 45-year-olds who are the bank's main customer base. The bank has user-friendly advertisements on the Internet featuring its highly competitive credit card interest rates.

Thompson says the site can support the bank's plans to sell securities on-line. "We want to position The Huntington as a financial services company. That's why presenting our services in an easily accessible format is so important," says Thompson, who adds that the site is super secure. The security software was designed by Security First Technologies, which also developed security technologies for the Department of Defense.

The Web bank site was redesigned by Resource Marketing, a high-tech marketing firm with offices in Columbus and San Francisco. Says Nancy Kramer, the firm's president, "It's designed to meet current customer needs and has the architectural framework for adding services as those needs grow."

-peterson tfn.com

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