Banks are constantly hearing they are too slow to deploy new technology and that nonbank companies work faster and more nimbly - and often this criticism is right. But when it comes to electronic bill payment and presentment, banks may be farther ahead than the doubters imagine.

A new report from Goldman Sachs tries to put banks' progress in perspective. The firm points out that electronic bill payment and presentment - known to the cognoscenti as EBPP - is "still in its infancy," with less than 5% of household bills paid online and only 0.01% presented online. Goldman Sachs says it expects a "true inflection point" for these services to be reached in 2001, and a "critical mass" of bills presented and paid online by 2003.

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