You remember the story of the tortoise and the hare. In this version, the race is to offer Internet banking, and Chase Manhattan Bank is definitely the tortoise. The U.S.'s largest bank recently announced its selection of Edify's NT-optimized

Electronic Banking System Release 2 for its Internet bank, placing the launch some time in 1998.

When the site is up and running, its strength will be its ability to integrate all of a customer's relationships with the bank in the way the information is presented on screen, says Mike Papantoniou, vp of electronic commerce at Chase. "Today everybody gets the exact same offering," he says. An example of the customization might be a customer who has a habit of first checking a savings account balance before conducting transactions. The application would "learn" from that behavior and automatically present the savings account when the customer logs in.

The initial incarnation of Chase's Internet site will offer standard account balances and history, transfers and electronic bill payment. Later in 1998 bank officials expect to add bill presentment and smart card capabilities to the site.

But these capabilities may still fall short of what competitor Citibank is planning for its Internet site unveiled last month and its "virtual global village," which will provide customers with value-added content beginning in 1998. Is Chase planning to be in the content game? "We will provide transactions as part of an integrated offering...We see (the offering further expanding) in the future," Papantoniou says.

Analysts aren't concerned by Chase's late entry into the game, with aplomb reminiscent of who actually won the race between the tortoise and the hare. "Citibank and Chase are the two biggest banks in the nation, so of course it will take them a lot of time to design a system to satisfy a larger customer base," says Mildred Wulff, an analyst in Jupiter Communication's digital commerce group. "They have deep pockets. I'm sure once they start, they're going to be able to do more than what many banks have done."

Chase execs agree, saying the bank is focusing on Internet banking as just one of the many channels customers will use to access the bank. Papantoniou says, "Beneath all of the Internet and on-line service offerings, there has to be the strength of the products."


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