MNC Financial Corp. has sprinted to an early lead in the delivery to consumers of computerized telephones for home banking.
The Baltimore-based institution has distributed more than 3,000 telephones with display screens to customers since commercially launching the Online Home Banking product in June.
This puts MNC well ahead of Citicorp, Huntington Bancshares, and Bank of Boston, which have either tested or plan to test similar home banking products, but have not yet launched them commercially.
"We're pleased so far," said Thomas E. Myrick, vice president of Maryland National Bank, a unit of MNC. "I think the customers who get this phone are going to be extremely loyal."
MNC is marketing Online Banker to all customers of its Baltimore-based Maryland National unit and its American@ Security Bank, Washington.
MNC has put Online Banker demo models in each of the 233 branches of both banks. The company has also spent just over $100,000 on direct mailings and a five-week newspaper ad campaign, Mr. Myrick said.
Service roll-out costs were negligible because MNC is using Online Resources and Communictions Corp., McLean, Va., as a service bureau.
Online Resources designed the screen-based telephones and sells them to MNC. Online also operates a communications switch that links the screen-based telephones through the Most automated teller machine network to MNC's computers.
Bank customers pay MNC $68.95 for the Online Home Banking telephone, and $6.95 per month for the service. Mr. Myrick said MNC does not earn much profit from these fees. Instead, nearly all of the fee revenues go to cover the payments MNC makes to Online Resources for transaction-processing services and telephones.
Bank customers can use Online Home Banking to pay bills of more than 4,000 companies in the Washington and Baltimore metropolitan area. Customers can also use the screenbased phone to move money between three accounts, and for balance inquiries.
Benefits to the Bank
Mr. Myrick said the payoff from Online Home Banking was that it would increase customer loyalty and help MNC cross-sell financial services. "These folks tend to shop you more and buy more from you," he said.
The advanced telephone aids cross-selling by providing a new marketing medium. While customers are being electronically connected to the bank, the telephone screen displays a message about bank products such as mortgages, Mr. Myrick said.
If customers are interested, they can press a button on their phone that automatically places a call to a customer service representative, who can pitch the product to the prospect.
Mr. Myrick said that bank customers were each conducting nearly 20 Online Home Banking transactions per month, mostly balance inquiries.
Citicorp once led the market with the development of its own computerized telephones. It launched a trial test of a product called Enhanced Telephone in 1990. But the service is not yet sold commercially. Huntington plans to launch its AT&T SmartPhone service next year.
Huntington is also teaming with AT&T to sell the SmartPhone service to other banks. In this arena, Huntington is competing with Online Resources, which is also marketing its home banking service to banks.