The virtual world is indeed getting smaller. Like Huntington Bancshares before it, First Tennessee Bank plans to offer full-service banking on the Internet later this year, enabling customers to conduct on-line banking transactions in real-time, as well as detailed financial planning.

Anyone will be able to visit First Tennessee's Internet bank from any computer in the world with a Java-based browser. Customers will not only be able to open accounts, check balances, pay bills and transfer funds, but also to access financial planning programs to help them manage their assets and liabilities.

The First Tennessee Internet Bank will offer Java-based financial planning programs from HOME Account Network Inc., based in Charleston, SC, that are typically the domain of pension funds, insurance companies and other large investors. The programs will give bank customers a choice of more than 200 economic scenarios covering a 40-year planning horizon. A financial planning guide will help customers decide where to invest, how much to save, and when and how to borrow. "There is nothing like it in the marketplace," says Dave Brewer, HOME Account's chief technology officer. "Most people try to maximize their wealth over time against a certain amount of risk, but they don't consider competing goals or liabilities. We do both with asset and liability modeling, including alternate mortgage instruments that the bank happens to offer."

Beyond an initial licensing fee and a per customer monthly charge, Brewer says HOME Account's relationship with First Tennessee is "a shared risk, shared reward" deal.

Memphis-based InteliData Technologies Corp. will provide mainframe support, including programming and building software that will handle the bank's Internet transactions.

Tripp Johnson, First Tennessee's manager of new technologies, says that Java enables all of a customer's account information to be accessed in one step. The customer opens only one channel into the bank, instead of a separate one for each of his accounts, maximizing security.

Johnson hopes to have the system up and running in a few months. Among the challenges remaining, he cites "determining how to route the new Internet service delivery channel within the bank and making certain that the mainframe is prepared for the traffic load." Brewer says quick and thorough staff training is imperative. "If they don't get their staff trained, they're not going to get many customers on the Internet."--peterson tfn.com

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