Security First Network Bank's decision to shed its Web bank skin was not one of 1997's big surprises. For many observers, the writing was on the wall a year and a half ago, when SFNB acquired Security First Technologies (formerly Five

Paces), shifted its software sales into high gear and relegated its bank forever to the role of security system prototype. The realization that SFNB could not go on pitching banks as customers while competing with them for accounts, coupled with regulatory requirements forcing the company to tie up much-needed capital in the bank, prompted the decision to put the Web bank on the block. While some say the move was inevitable, others contend it casts doubt on the future of Internet banks.

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