Intuit Inc. chairman Scott Cook said he doesn't quite know what to make of Integrion Financial Network, but he'll take it as a form of flattery.

Mr. Cook said Integrion, given International Business Machines Corp.'s close involvement, represents a "clear endorsement" of the notion that on- line banking technology "will be built by third parties and distributed broadly."

He has been making that exact pitch to bankers for a personal-computer strategy based on his company's Quicken financial management software and back-office support from the Intuit Services Corp. subsidiary.

Speaking this week to the annual Bank Marketing Association forum in Orlando, Mr. Cook answered a litany of complaints he has heard from bankers leery of working with Intuit and other high-tech companies perceived as threats to banking relationships. He said the complexities of on-line business opportunities make partnerships and alliances more critical than ever.

With the right strategic choices, he said, banking can flourish on the Internet and other new delivery channels, just as the credit card industry has thrived amid a proliferation of technology and processing specialists.

"We make software; the banking relationship is with the bank," he said. "We don't want to be or appear to be a financial institution because the consumer wouldn't trust us as one."

Mr. Cook drew an analogy with the Citibank-American Airlines Visa card, saying customers don't confuse the roles of those companies, yet the strong brands reinforce each other.

In a brief interview, he said it is "too soon to understand the implications" of Integrion. Because it promises banks freedom of choice, the initiative could bring Intuit more business. But Mr. Cook said IBM may simply be making a short-term grab for volume on its global private network, whereas "in the future, the Internet will be the network of choice."

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