Natwest Group announced the formation Thursday of Mondex International Ltd., a 17-bank joint venture and governing body for the smart-card-based electronic payment system.

Touted as a landmark in Natwest's six-year-old drive to create a "global alternative to cash," the move reduces the London-based originating bank to a minority shareholder and distributes control among institutions with franchising rights in at least 15 other countries.

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