PNC Bank Corp. has just rolled out a PC-based banking product aimed at small businesses.

Called Business Express, the product is DOS-based and lets customers check balances and transer funds; it can also interface with accounting software to do account reconciliation, said Nickolas Certo, a senior vice president at PNC.

"With this, businesses don't have to go to the teller, and they don't have to discuss their service on the phone," Mr. Certo said. "The bank's open as long as their PC is turned on."

The software was created by ECPartners, a joint venture of Automatic Data Processing Inc. and Checkfree Corp. The company, based in Norcross, Ga., offers electronic banking and bill-paying services to about 50 banking companies.

PNC started introducing the product in selected markets July 5 and systemwide this month. The software costs $75, but a 50%-off sale is running through Dec. 31. The bank also charges a monthly fee based on the number of accounts.

PNC said it believes there will be demand for the product because an estimated 85% of small businesses use a personal computer and proprietors are generally more tech-savvy than the general population, Mr. Certo said.

Research by Payment Systems Inc., Tampa, indicates a market for PC-based banking services. The research firm has reported that 0.7% of businesses with $500,000 to $10 million of annual sales do most of their banking transactions by PC and another 15.2% use the PC occasionally.

Fully 27.7% of small businesses were found to be interested in Windows- based banking, which ECPartners and PNC plan to offer in coming months.

"We think about 10% to 15% of our existing customer base would be interested in this product," Mr. Certo said.

Additional software lets businesses perform automated clearing house functions such as cash concentration and direct deposit, Mr. Certo said. So far, this product has sold slowly, but Mr. Certo predicted it would become more popular once customers adjust to the PC banking service.

Within six to 12 months, PNC will offer software letting banks pay bills electronically, place stop orders on checks, check on PNC investment account balances, and draw down lines of credit, Mr. Certo said.

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