Royal Bank of Canada is testing a new service to give its correspondent banks access to account information via the Internet.

The bank, with $140 billion in assets, has more than 3,500 correspondent bank relationships. Many of these are with institutions that need access to payment systems settlement information both in Canada and abroad. The service is aimed at such institutions.

Four banks are testing the service, which updates correspondent account information several times each day and makes the updates available over the Internet.

"We're embarking on a number of controlled experiments on the Internet," said Alan A. Bowbyes, vice president in the bank's financial institutions and trade area.

Royal Bank is one of the world's largest providers of payment services to settlement banks, according to bank executives.

Bank officials expect the new Internet service to appeal to those clients with heavy transaction volumes that want to view in a timely manner information on the settlement of securities and foreign exchange transactions.

Client banks currently get this information via mail, telex, or the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, which is an international financial messaging service.

Royal Bank executives said the service will cost less than Swift, because Internet access requires only a local phone call.

They said the Internet service also will benefit banks in which many departments need access to account information. Statements sent by mail, telex, or via Swift usually go to a single department and then are routed to others. The Internet-based service can eliminate the need for such routing.

Clients can use Netscape Communications Corp.'s browser, Navigator, to find the bank's home page on the World Wide Web. The page directs users to the account information.

Access to account information is controlled by identification numbers and passwords. All data are encrypted before being sent to authorized clients.

The bank has not set its fee schedule for the service yet.

During testing, Royal Bank is downloading account information three times each day, but bank executives said the service can be tailored to meet different client needs.

Ms. Brokaw is a freelance writer based in San Francisco.

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