Don't expect talks between Integrion and Visa Interactive to resume anytime soon. Rumor has it that deal is dead. Talks broke down when Integrion allegedly questioned whether Visa Interactive had the "intellectual capital" to do claims processing settlement to the consortium's satisfaction; if Visa's existing back-office capabilities were sufficient; and whether Visa could present a robust biller database file of merchants and deliver on the promise of home banking, says a source close to the discussions. "Integrion needs to consider: Will (Visa Interactive) help Integrion to the market quicker than IBM will?" Apparently not.

Rather, some suggest that CheckFree is a far more suitable partner for Integrion than Visa Interactive. "CheckFree has spent the past year and a half building probably the most robust bill-pay operation. They've invested, year-to-date, $350 million, including the acquisition of ISC," says an industry source. "You have to look at the dynamics of Integrion: Nine of their banks are current users of CheckFree. My most likely scenario is that you'll see a joint venture between Integrion and CheckFree-not an acquisition."

Though Integrion CEO Bill Fenimore declined to comment on "anything specifically," he did say that Integrion would be doing live transactions, including bill pay, by end of year. How can Integrion do this without outsourcing its back-office and fulfillment to CheckFree? It's doubtful they can.

While the society for world-

wide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (S.W.I.F.T.) may have pulled the plug on its corporate payments messaging pilot, "they still want to diversify from their dependence on bank-to-bank (messaging) only," says Ira Morrow, financial services industry research director of Gartner Group. In fact, S.W.I.F.T. is meeting this month to post-mortum the pilot and sketch a plan for the organization's next corporate messaging program, says a source close the organization.

The pilot, sources say, didn't pan out because of the tremendous diversity among internal corporate computer systems. And this lack of standardization required translation software currently unavailable on a mass scale to S.W.I.F.T., or anyone else for that matter. "(S.W.I.F.T.) wants to take a standard message and provide the switch to other companies. What they don't want to do is to have to go to every company that installs (link software) and do some custom tailoring," says Morrow. To this end, S.W.I.F.T. is working with technology partners including IBM and NEON to develop translation software that the organization can use on a mass scale.

Talk in inner-banking circles has it that Citibank is taking the plunge into Internet banking. The rumor is that, as of this summer or fall, the retail bank powerhouse will debut its Net offering. And though the offering may be limited at first, it won't be long until everything goes on-line, says one industry analyst.

And where banks like Wells Fargo don't have the infrastructure in place to handle customer demand, says the analyst, Citibank's plumbing should be able to more seamlessly deliver customer data from across the institution and through the Internet. Citibank was unavailable for comment.

-bers tfn.com

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