National Commerce Bancorp. of Memphis, which has built much of its consumer strategy around supermarket branches, is bringing home banking to its customers-on laptops.

The $4.9 billion-asset company is demonstrating its new Internet banking software on laptop computers at its branches. Some 4,000 customers have signed up over the past five months, and new accounts are being opened at the rate of about 50 a day.

"The visual aspect of it is much more powerful than hearing about it or reading about it," said National Commerce vice chairman William R. Reed Jr.

National Commerce is one of the few institutions to provide on-line banking demonstrations in this way.

Most banks find they have more customers interested in the service than they can accommodate in person, said Bob Landry, retail banking group director at Tower Group in Newton, Mass. They rely on mailings or brochures to advertise their on-line offerings.

"Most banks assume those customers that can get on the Internet will figure out how to use home banking as well," said Octavio Marenzi, research director at Meridien Research Inc. in Needham, Mass.

Mr. Marenzi said the industry might be more successful with home banking if it stepped up marketing efforts. Less than 2% of customers bank from home, with only a fraction of those using the Internet, he continued. National Commerce's demonstrations could indicate if this approach results in more sign-ups.

Eight laptops with the Internet banking demo are circulating among the 109 branches of National Commerce's four subsidiary banks-NBC Bank, National Bank of Commerce, Nashville Bank of Commerce, and First Market Bank-in Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia. The company plans to have permanent demonstrations soon in each location.

National Commerce set up the demonstrations to make customers more familiar with the software, said Chris Skarzinski, first vice president for direct channel management at National Bank of Commerce in Memphis.

"This is one of the steps to show customers that Internet banking does not have to be an intimidating way of doing their banking business," he said.

The bank also has in-store promotions, direct mailings, and Web advertising campaigns for the product.

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