Beneficial National Bank, with only eight offices serving the New Castle, Delaware area, is offering quick on-line loans to America in the first truly interactive service of its kind in the country. Consumers can access the bank's site through CompuServe, click on "Two-Minute Loan," fill in a loan application that appears on the screen and hit "Send." Since credit scoring is nearly instantaneous, the customer can receive loan approval within two minutes and the check goes into the mail the next business day.

While other banks offer on-line loan access, those services are for regular bank customers only, and waiting periods range from two hours upward. Beneficial National's service offers unsecured two- to five-year loans of up to $10,000 at 9.9 percent or higher, depending on credit information, to anyone on-line. "Most banks don't focus on the credit side of PC banking," says Beneficial National Bank president Robert Pierce. "They are more home-banking oriented. PC loan applications are printed out and just looked at as part of the bank's normal underwriting process."

Beneficial National initially chose to work through CompuServe, instead of putting the program directly on the Internet, to hedge security concerns. The bank is nonetheless upgrading its Web page, anticipating that security problems will be resolved in the near term. In the meantime, the bank has teamed with Block Financial to offer quick loans through Block's on-line site for personal finance and through Intuit by offering loans to tax filers using Intuit's TurboTax or MacIntax software.

The bank's expertise in high-tech marketing of consumer loans comes naturally because it is a subsidiary of Beneficial Corp., which has a network of more than 1,100 consumer finance offices in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland and Germany with combined receivables of $14.5 billion.

Beneficial National Bank USA, another subsidiary of Beneficial Corp., is one of the nation's largest private-label credit card processors, providing merchant customers with revolving programs of instant consumer credit. "Our parent company has a lot of experience in credit scoring," says Pierce. "We decided to leverage Beneficial Corp.'s credit decision technology after we saw that our competitors weren't focusing on the credit side (of the business)."


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