The Most network, the nation's fifth-largest regional electronic banking system, has begun offering a home banking service to its member banks.

Through an agreement with Online Resources and Communications Corp., Most said it can set up a home banking system within 45 days for any of its 550 member financial institutions.

"If the banks had to build their own systems it would take significantly longer," said Lori S. Stewart, a senior vice president of marketing for Online Resources in McLean, Va.

Banks that sign up through Most would be able to offer customers the ability to bank by personal computer, screen phone, or touch-tone telephone. Consumers also would be able to pay bills, get account information, and transfer funds among banks.

"This is essentially a bank-branded service, an opportunity for financial institutions to bring a new service to their customer base," said Mary A. Kilby, senior vice president of Internet Inc., the Reston, Va., company that operates Most.

Ms. Kilby said Most is offering the service at special lower prices for its member banks.

"We see a great deal of interest in the marketplace in home banking, and it's coming from all types and all sizes of institutions," Ms. Kilby said.

Ms. Stewart said home banking's potential is on the rise as computers make more inroads into American households. "I think people are actually expecting their banks to be offering this right now, and that's a real turning point," she said.

Most connects 108,000 automated tellers and point of sale terminals in 20 states and the District of Columbia. It worked closely with Online Resources on a screen-phone-based banking service for NationsBank of Baltimore. The phones' screen commands were modeled after those of ATMs.

The home banking service offered by Most and Online Resources has little else to do with ATMs - or the Internet. Ms. Kilby said her company chose Internet Inc. as its name in 1984, long before the global interactive computer network rose to prominence.

Most has agreed to merge with Honor, the regional network based in Florida. Ms. Kilby said the deal is not scheduled to close for "some time," pending shareholder and regulatory approval.

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