The Integrion on-line banking consortium has passed a milestone: One of its owners has signed up for its bill-payment service.
That may not sound like much, but several of the 17 major banking companies among Integrion's co-owners have signed up with MSFDC, the rival electronic bill payment and presentment system being assembled by Microsoft Corp. and First Data Corp.
Two-year-old Integrion, whose owners also include International Business Machines Corp. and Visa U.S.A., has been seen as slow off the mark. But the signing of its first bill presentment and payment user, Michigan National Corp., may signal new momentum.
"The Internet threw them off guard," said Octavio Marenzi, a partner at Meridien Research in Needham, Mass. "They are not an overwhelming success story."
Integrion announced two weeks ago that co-owner Michigan National had started using its Internet-based banking and bill payment services on the Integrion Interactive Financial Services platform. Michigan National had begun testing the bill payment service with employees this year.
Banc One, NationsBank Corp., and PNC Bank Corp., which are also Integrion owners, were already live on its system but are not using its bill payment facility. First Chicago NBD Corp. is testing it, and ABN Amro and Washington Mutual Inc. are planning to pilot Integrion Web banking and bill payment.
Michigan National's choice of Integrion over MSFDC may indicate that momentum is building.
"MSFDC is focused on bill presentment," said Michael King, the director of alternative banking at Michigan National in Farmington Hills. "They didn't provide us with a full solution for on-line banking and bill payment and presentation. Integrion has the full circle."
In addition to using Integrion for Internet banking and bill payment, Michigan National plans to use the Interactive Financial Services platform for telephone bill payments, along with Syntellect Inc.'s Interactive Voice Response system.
"The scalability and strength" of the Integrion platform "will allow the bank to have a single point of connectivity for Web and telephone banking and bill payment, which is more cost-effective than supporting multiple platforms," said William M. Fenimore Jr., chief executive officer of Integrion.
Emily L. Mendell, manager of planning and communications at Philadelphia-based Integrion, said it is "in pretty good shape" given banks' deliberate pace in approaching the World Wide Web. She predicted that half the 17 bank owners will be using Integrion's system next year.
MSFDC gained from Integrion's slow start. Banc One and Norwest Corp., also an Integrion owner, are among those participating in MSFDC pilots.
Susan Weinstein, vice president of the on-line financial services group at Wells Fargo & Co., an early MSFDC supporter that is merging with Norwest, said, "MSFDC was ready to go."
David Spier, head of Internet and personal computer banking at Integrion owner Mellon Bank Corp., said Mellon was eager to get started and saw MSFDC as a way to test the waters. "The technology to support this is so new we just don't know what will happen," he said. "We will try to keep all of our options open."
Mr. Spier said the industry is finding bill presentment more difficult than originally anticipated. Because this will take a while to develop, "Integrion is not at a significant disadvantage," he said.
Martin Evancoe, vice president and manager of PNC's on-line financial services, said his company wants Integrion "to be a consolidator." He said he expects Integrion to be able to deliver electronic bill presentment for PNC.
"That is the magic of Integrion," he said. "I will only have to deal with them, and they manage all of the different platforms."
Bruce Luecke, president of interactive delivery services at Banc One, said Integrion "can play a great role" as a bill presentment consolidator. "They can group the bills together and get them to us in a single flow. We can then send (the bills) to our customers in a common way."
Credit Suisse First Boston analyst Bill Burnham said: "Electronic banking has gone through phases, and Integrion had to adapt as the world changed. They have had a tough time bringing their services to the market. The commitment from Michigan National is encouraging."
"People are wrongly positioning us as competition," Integrion's Ms. Mendell said. "We have a strategic alliance with Checkfree Corp.," so Integrion's bank members can use both Integrion and MSFDC.