being widely implemented, as the IFX Forum held its first meeting Wednesday.

The group, whose members include banks, securities firms, and vendors, has been assigned to translate into technical terms all the products, services, and messages related to executing on-line financial transactions.

It is expected that once such terms are defined and incorporated into the Interactive Financial Exchange, the standard will facilitate adoption of on-line banking and bill payment and presentment services. Institutions and their technology providers using IFX, it is said, could build new applications independent of particular network technologies, architectures, or service providers.

"Our shingle is hung up and we are open for business officially," said Kit Needham, senior director of the Banking Industry Technology Secretariat, a division of the Financial Services Roundtable, which organized the IFX Forum as part of its campaign to simplify banks' technology choices.

Four banks are represented on the group's board -- Citigroup Inc., BankBoston, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo -- and more are on a waiting list. PaineWebber Group is the sole securities firm on the board, which has a spot open for another.

AT&T Corp. is participating as a biller representative, and Security First Technologies and Electronic Data Systems Corp. represent the vendor side.

The organizations that wrote the two specifications being merged in IFX are also on the board: Microsoft Corp., Intuit Inc., and Checkfree Holdings Corp., which together produced the Open Financial Exchange specification, and the Integrion consortium and International Business Machines Corp., which produced the Gold specification. IFX is intended to combine the OFX and Gold specifications into "one great one," Ms. Needham said.

Several working groups in the IFX Forum have been chipping away at defining different parts of the specification, said Ms. Needham, who added that the billing and paying portion of IFX is expected to be released in October. Dates of other releases are still to be announced.

The IFX Forum continues to seek members. Its annual fee is $10,000. -- Chris Costanzo

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