Home Financial Network Inc. is moving to home banking's ultimate frontier.
The Westport, Conn., company, known for the simplified approach that others have dubbed "home banking lite," is offering versions of its HomeATM software for the Internet.
Home Financial president Eric Jacobsen demonstrated the product extensions, known as Internet ATM, last week during the Bank Administration Institute's Retail Delivery '96 conference.
Mr. Jacobsen said he expects to roll out the software to banks by the second quarter of next year.
"We always knew we would have an Internet version," Mr. Jacobsen said last week. It took time because of the complexities and security vulnerabilities of the Internet, and because Home Financial set high standards for duplicating the "look and feel," speed, and other features of its flagship programs, HomeATM Banking and HomeATM Bill Pay.
"We didn't want to have to use qualifiers, such as that the Internet product would be slower or more expensive or less graphically pleasing," Mr. Jacobsen said.
"We want to be the first ATM on the Internet," he said, admitting he was "taking a poke" at a rival, Security First Technologies, that advertised itself as the first bank on the Internet.
Whether over the Internet or conventional phone links to personal computers or laptops, Home Financial is pursuing a "middle and mass market" strategy. With easy-to-learn screens modeled after automated teller machines, it hopes to help banks attract consumers who are not drawn to the more sophisticated money management programs of Intuit Inc., Microsoft Corp., or the bank-owned Meca Software Inc.
The "lite" strategy, which some of Home Financial's competitors are also pursuing, could significantly widen the appeal of home banking, according to Synergistics Research Corp. of Atlanta.
Anne Morgan Moore, president of the market research firm, released a survey at the BAI conference indicating that 17% of consumers with annual incomes above $15,000 would consider using a "lite" appliance - perhaps a small PC or stripped down, "thin client" network computer - for home banking.
That compares with 7% already doing PC banking and 30% seen as prospects for it. (The remaining 46% were not prospects for on-line banking.)
In other action pertaining to the lower and middle consumer markets, Interaxis Corp. of New York, which makes software for screen telephones, showed a prototype of Banking for Windows - Lite at the retail delivery meeting in Dallas.
The product is "more streamlined than money management software and more secure than the Internet," said Meryl Enerson, director of development for Interaxis banking software. Interaxis also has Web-site development plans for Internet access.
In business only 15 months, Home Financial is marketing HomeATM and its Internet offshoots through banks and processing organizations like Visa Interactive and Checkfree Corp., and lets banks to put their own brand names on the products. Besides simplicity, the software vendor is touting "no up-front cost" and "no time to market," Mr. Jacobsen said.
Security was a major concern, he added, and the company has put in higher-level protocols than those available through typical Web browsers.
Internet ATM will come in two versions. One, "browser plug-in," uses Microsoft Active-X controls. Software code can be loaded onto the customer's PC, providing high graphical quality, and banks don't have to maintain a server computer.
The other version, "Web-centric," is based on the Java language, resides on an institution's home banking server, and can work across all types of computers, browsers, devices, and appliances.
The options are "consistent with our strategy of serving the disparate needs of partner financial institutions," said Home Financial chairman and chief executive officer Daniel Schley. "Rather than shoehorn our partners into one specific technology or design methodology, we have empowered them with the ability to select the technology, communication environment, and security protocols that suit their individual preferences.