You could read "War and Peace" three times, or you could read something even longer: Toronto Dominion Bank's 3,800-page site on the World Wide Web.

Pressed for time? Fleet Financial Group's Web site weighs in at less than 700 pages.

Most banks posting wares on the Internet have limited their offerings to a dozen pages or so, but the age of the megasite may be approaching rapidly, says John Long, president of Quadravision Communications of Toronto.

Quadravision designed Toronto Dominion's epic-length Web site, which is by far the most extensive bank site in existence, as well as Fleet's, which may well be the second-longest.

And the attention that the firm has gained as architect of these mammoth sites has translated into new business from banks that hope a hefty Web presence will put them at the cutting edge.

Half a dozen U.S. banks - all of them in the top 50 in terms of assets - have recently hired Quadravision to create serious, information-laden Web sites. The firm has opened an office in Atlanta to serve its growing U.S. customer base.

"Financial services is a logical, information-driven purchase, and I believe that sites must reflect that," Mr. Long said. "They shouldn't just be fun and fluffy."

This philosophy is visible in the site Quadravision designed for Toronto Dominion, at www.tdbank.ca, which includes extensive information about mortgages, trusts, mutual funds, and how to buy a house. Economic news is updated daily.

"You might not want to go down to the level of knowing the name of the fund manager and what the fund's performance was in 1983," Mr. Long said, "but the fact is that the information is out there."

For Canada Trust, that country's largest trust company, Quadravision created a suite of Web sites, including one with a magazine-style format. For Bayshore Trust, a tiny Toronto bank that wanted to use the Internet to compete with national banking giants, the communications firm built the first Internet banking site that lets customers get instant loan approvals on-line.

"The idea is that getting rejected for a loan in the safety of your own house is a lot more comfortable," Mr. Long said.

Founded in 1981 as a corporate communications firm, Quadravision moved into interactive technology four years ago, helping banks develop CD-ROM offerings and video kiosks with teleconferencing capabilities.

Quadravision's contribution to Toronto Dominion's video kiosk led to its work on the bank's Web site.

"One of the big things they helped us with was the idea of laying out a site map, taking account how we were going to link all the many pages of our site," said Steve Gesner, an associate vice president at Toronto Dominion. "If you go into our site, there are hot links all over the place, and you can bop around easily."

Toronto Dominion launched its site in February 1995 with 300 pages. By last April, it was getting 20,000 hits - or visits - a month. This February, the site got a record one million hits, plus 4,000 electronic mail messages.

By contrast, most of the 315 North American bank sites identified on a master list kept by Online Resources Communications Corp. include only a few pages of basic information about bank products and services.

More and more companies are jockeying to design Web sites for banks. But Mr. Long said putting up simple sites is "not the market that we're in. What we do is very large, relationship-driven transactional sites."

Like most advocates of Internet-based banking, Mr. Long warns that banks that do not offer competitive Web sites will quickly lose business to those that do.

"Is this just a nice place to put brochures, or is this in fact home banking?" Mr. Long said. "We and our clients see it as a very important channel."

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