WASHINGTON - National banks will soon be able to do much of their communicating with regulators over the Internet rather than through the mail, say officials at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

They will do so with National Banknet, a service designed to connect national bankers and their examiners through e-mail and give bankers access to on-line assessment programs. The OCC expects to announce the launch of the service this week.

"We recognize that community bankers have a hard time keeping up with all of the mail they receive from regulators and other companies while they are trying to run their banks," said Stuart A. Scherer, the OCC's director of community bank activities. National Banknet, he said, "is a way for us to make their lives easier."

The system, which bankers will be able to access through a normal Web browser such as Netscape Navigator or Internet Explorer, is password-protected so it can be used for the exchange of sensitive information.

"Data exchange is one of the things we want to provide - to give bankers the ability to talk back to us," said Cheryl F. Davis, director of the OCC's supervisory data division.

The agency also expects to provide various self-assessment tools to banks using National Banknet. The first such tool - and the only one available now- is "comparative analysis reporting," which contains data supplied to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. by all FDIC-insured banks.

Users of the analysis program can size up their banks against as many as six other institutions at a time and generate customized reports that compare the institutions across 200 categories. Ms. Davis said comparative analysis reporting "streamlines and enhances" a process already in place by which the OCC generates peer-group reports in hard copy and mails them to banks. A similar on-line program offered by the FDIC allows banks to access the same data but cannot compare more than two institutions at a time.

Mr. Scherer said the OCC expects to make more tools like Comparative Analysis Reporting available on-line by mid-2000.

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