Some bankers are learning that getting on-line with the newest personal-finance software is less than automatic.
Since July, when 19 banks and financial service companies agreed in rapid succession to link up with the competing personal-computer packages of both Intuit Inc. and Microsoft Corp., the process of actually adding the banking services has been less than smooth.
Industry sources cite problems ranging from contractual disputes to the longer-range technical challenge of connecting multiple bank systems with the processor for Intuit and Microsoft.
Many of the bankers involved in these home-banking efforts say they anticipated a rocky start. But more than one of them, insisting on remaining anonymous, said they had expected the smooth sailing of a typical outsourcing job and then got a rude awakening.
"When (Intuit chief executive) Scott Cook was doing his sales job, explaining all the things that were going to be done for the banks, he created the impression there would be a very small impact on the bank's operations," said one observer.
Mr. Cook and Intuit are on the hot seat, and not just because they make Quicken, the most popular of the financial software brands. Intuit also owns the payment processor working with both Intuit and Microsoft.
Intuit Services Corp., which Intuit acquired in 1994, signs the agreements with the banks and hooks into their systems.
Under its former name, National Payment Clearinghouse Inc., Illinois- based Intuit Services worked on the original banking component of the Microsoft Money software, now offered through U.S. Bancorp of Oregon, Michigan National Corp., First Chicago Corp., Chase Manhattan Corp., and Marquette Banks Inc. of Minnesota.
The recent complications, coinciding with the development of more advanced software by Intuit and Microsoft, have caused a few high-pitched battles during user-group meetings, sources said.
"When you've got a consortium of banks, not everyone's at the same point," said Thomas C. Byrne, senior vice president and director of retail marketing for Sanwa Bank, San Francisco.
"It's very difficult to get a group of banks in simultaneous fashion to do anything together," said Bruce Burchfield, chief executive officer of Intuit Services.
By and large, bankers still say they expect the ultimate payoff will justify the growing pains. But the banks are hard-pressed to make the proposed late-October start date - Mr. Burchfield expects some to postpone their release. Most, however, are expected to remain committed to on-line banking, compelled if nothing else by fear of giving competitors an advantage.
Mr. Burchfield admitted to facing some operational and contractual issues, which he compared to what the banking industry experienced in the early days of ATM networks.
"Having done Cirrus and Cash Station, it's going the way these joint projects always do," said Mr. Burchfield, a former chief executive of the national Cirrus network and a founder of Chicago-based Cash Station.
Mr. Byrne of Sanwa Bank, one of the first on Intuit's and Microsoft's bandwagons, made similar comparisons with his experiences a decade ago in helping launch Star System in the West.
Mr. Burchfield said Intuit Services will have to accommodate a flood of new business that he said could multiply its user base 20 to 25 times by next summer. He would not disclose the current number of on-line banking customers, but Chase alone reportedly has 10,000 customers using Microsoft Money for on-line banking.
To manage the growth, Mr. Burchfield said Intuit Services has doubled its staff - to 100 - in the last four months. The company last month outsourced its check printing to John H. Harland Co. to make way for the anticipated volume.
For Marquette Banks - the smallest of Intuit Services' initial bank partners, with $1.1 billion of assets - the program "has been a ton of work," said Daniel J. Herbeck, president of the Marquette Direct unit. "It's not an easy product to support or market."
As a small fish in an increasingly big and murky pond, "having us get a voice is a constant battle," Mr. Herbeck said. "Many times we're forgotten."
Still, Marquette has pushed the envelope to become one of only five banks offering a Money-based banking service. The others are all major banking companies that had been actively involved with Microsoft for at least a year.
Brian Tracey contributed to this article.