By changing its name from The National Association for Bank Servicers to the Association for Financial Technology, the consortium of data processing service bureaus is hoping to take on a larger role in bank technology.

Founded 22 years ago, the group--which includes some of the largest outsources such as EDS Corp., M&I Data Services, FIserv Inc. and The Bisys Group--was only open to firms that processed bank and thrift savings accounts and loans. For most of its existence, it operated behind the scenes and did little more than sponsor semi-annual gatherings of its 60 or so members. One of the group's more active participants acknowledges that exclusivity cut it off from a growing proportion of the bank technology industry, particularly in recent years.

The industry has grown to include all manner of technology providers and customers, and the July name change coincided with an opening of AFT's doors to not only suppliers but banks as well, says Robert Jones, a Bisys vice president who is also vice president at AFT.

"We're trying to make AFT a forum for bank technology providers" of all sorts, not just service bureaus, Jones says. Whether banks will be interested in joining a group geared to their suppliers is another matter. Jones doesn't believe it will be an obstacle. "The things we're interested in are the same things that banks are interested in," he says. These mutual interests include such hot buttons as home banking, branch automation and client/server computing.

AFT's objective is to see how its members can make the most use of existing computer and communications systems and effectively deploy developing technologies.

In terms of objectives and membership, AFT differs from a bank-sponsored group, the Financial Services Technology Consortium, which is sponsored by Citibank and includes many large money center and superregional banks. The bank-led group is geared more towards research on upcoming technologies.

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