Beneficial Corp.'s Beneficial National Bank has begun offering loans over the Internet through two popular World Wide Web "supersites" created by H&R Block Inc. and Intuit Inc.
By linking to Beneficial's Web site through Intuit's tax preparation site, TurboTax, or Block's site, Conductor, consumers can get access to Beneficial's on-line application for a loan worth up to $10,000.
Once an application is completed, Beneficial's computerized scoring system renders a decision within two minutes, bank officials said.
If approved, and if the customer accepts the loan, the bank promises to mail the check on the next business day.
"This has a lot of appeal to the millions of people using the Internet," said Robert W. Pierce, chief executive of the Wilmington, Del.-based bank.
"The fact that you get a loan decision on-line" within minutes may encourage people to apply for loans from home, he said.
The Intuit and Block sites currently are the only way to access Beneficial's Internet-based loan service, but other links may be added in the future, Beneficial executives said.
Though the bank has offered loans to users of the Compuserve on-line service since December, bank officials expect the Internet to let them reach more customers.
Through its agreement with H&R's Block Financial Corp. unit and Intuit's personal tax software division, Beneficial specifically is aiming at the estimated 3.5 million users of tax preparation software.
"The vast majority of people who use tax software need money" during tax season, said William P. Anderson, president of the Kansas City, Mo.-based Block Financial.
"We believe that applying for credit will be an important part," of Conductor, which Block is building into an on-line financial supermarket.
Using tax preparation software, many users see tax savings they could obtain by investing in certain preferred categories.
"Taxpayers often get to the end and realize that they could have funded an IRA (individual retirement account) and need a loan to do it," said Larry J. Wolfe, vice president of Intuit's personal tax group.
Intuit's TurboTax is the leading personal tax preparation software with more than 2 million sales a year, Intuit executives said. An H&R Block spokeswoman declined to disclose sales for their product, Kiplinger Tax Cut, but said that it had about a 20% share of the market.
Both software packages include information about how to get an on-line loan - including the Internet addresses for their respective Web sites. The Block and Intuit Web sites in turn refer customers to Beneficial's site.
Several technology companies see a bright future for on-line lending.
"Home banking, in and of itself, is not a profit center," said Thomas S. Dittrich, vice president of the Westport, Conn.-based Home Financial Network, which is working with Affinity Technology Group on a system for credit scoring on-line loan applications.
"One of the real promises of home banking is having that electronic gateway into the consumer's home so that you can cross-sell additional products and services.'