Putting the aborted merger with Cash Station Inc. behind it, Magic Line Inc., Michigan's largest electronic banking network, has shifted its attention inward.

The Dearborn, Mich.-based network has rounded out its management team by appointing a new chief operating officer, David A. Lind.

Mr. Lind joins John G. Bascom, who was named president and chief executive in May, and Daniel Roma, the chief financial officer.

At the same time, Magic Line revealed plans to improve its computer systems to expand the range of electronic banking services it provides to some 700 member institutions.

"We are moving away from our position as a utility," said Mr. Bascom. "We've got a number of businesses we are looking at that will expand our role to become a more diverse organization."

This fall, NBD Bancorp, which is both partial owner of Magic Line and its computer service provider, will install Tandem Computers Inc.'s newest fault-tolerant product, known as the Himalaya processor.

The computers are considered cutting edge for high-volume, real-time applications required by an electronic banking businesses such as Magic Line's.

Mr. Bascom numbered ATM driving and merchant services as areas in which the network is interested in expanding its presence.

He emphasized that the network's goal will be to grow into new businesses while avoiding direct competition with its member institutions.

"Our job is to complement" the efforts of member financial institutions, he said.

One of the most immediate manifestations of this effort will be a renewed emphasis on the marketing of the Magic Line debit point of sale service.

As the network promotes its brand and encourages consumers to use their ATM cards to pay for groceries, gas, and other goods, financial institutions stand to benefit as increased transaction volume boosts interchange revenue.

Magic Line will also move to expand an ATM driving business which operates on the NBD systems.

However, the upgrade of NBD's systems will not simply be used to expand existing businesses.

Mr. Bascom said Magic Line also plans to provide new services such as home banking and phone banking services to its member institutions.

By the second quarter of next year, the network will act as a switch for home bill-paying transactions, and it hopes to expand to more sophisticated services, such as televisionbased banking, as demand for such products emerges.

Regional networks are expected to play an integral role in the development of such products, because few financial institutions allocate funds to developing such services on their own.

Observers believe that the system upgrades will help Magic Line to compete for new members in its Midwest market.

However, the network which ranks as the nation's 10th-largest with about 4,400 ATMs, must also be looking for strategic partners to expand its presence in the region.

Cash Station, which is Chicago's dominant network, seemed a perfect merger partner for Magic Line.

The networks are dominant in adjacent markets, and placing the combined transactions on NBD's systems would create a merged network with significant scale advantages over competitors in the region.

The dissolution of the proposed merger in May sent Magic Line on a search for other prospective partners who might bring similar benefits to the network.

Magic Line is reportedly one of several networks bidding on BankMate, a St. Louis-based concern with about 2,400 ATMs.

If the BankMate deal does not bear fruit for Magic Line, experts believe there will be plenty of other merger possibilities in the Midwest.

While the country as a whole has seen the number of networks plummet, the Midwest remains heavily laden: It is home to nearly half the nation's regional electronic banking networks.

"The region cries out for consolidation," said Mr. Bascom, "and we intend to be a part of that in some way."

As some of the smaller Midwest networks feel competitive pressure from the likes of Electronic Payment Services, which operates the MAC ATM network, and Magic Line and Cash Station, many are looking for potential merger partners to help them compete.

Given this situation, Mr. Bascom expects that Magic Line will be a player.

"We would be interested in partnerships with other networks as well as constructive consolidations with other networks," he said.

Since Magic Line is one of the few Midwest-based networks to. undergo a multistate merger in recent years (it recently absorbed MoneyMover and Network One, both of which were operated by NBD), executives are confident of the network's ability to handle another.

But, Mr. Bascom noted, by establishing a plan to go forward in the absence of a merger, the network retains the strength to wait for the right partner.

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