By day, Frank De Armas is a foot soldier in Comerica Inc.'s information systems department.

By night, he sheds his pinstripes, grabs his mouse, and becomes host and editor-in-chief of The Internet Banker, an on-line magazine, bulletin board, and resource center for people interested in what banks are doing in cyberspace.

"It's like a clearing house for information on banking," Mr. De Armas said. "It started out as a little, tiny, part-time thing, but it just keeps growing."

So much so that Mr. De Armas, a senior applications engineer for Detroit-based Comerica, now spends four hours a night at his home computer maintaining the Internet Banker site.

He said it takes an hour to check all his links to other bank-related sites and to make sure that all the banks clamoring to be connected are added to the growing list.

The other three hours are spent compiling a daily on-line banking newsletter, assembling a quarterly journal, and responding to questions that readers tack onto the site's bulletin boards.

"If I know the answer, I post it," he said.

The site grew out of Mr. De Armas' development last year of Comerica's Web site. He wanted to keep track of what other financial institutions were doing on the Internet, adding bank- and financial-related sites as he came across them.

Then other people discovered his site and started using it. What began as a research tool "has taken on a life of its own."

Bankers use the bulletin boards for global shop talk. In a recent posting, a Missouri banking regulator wrote to ask about the delivery of electronic banking services to rural areas. An Israeli economics student asked if people think the Internet will make "normal banks as we know them today disappear."

A New Zealand banker named Lew solicited tips on boosting staff morale during a merger. A banker from Connecticut named Tom responded that "communication" and dress-down days had helped morale during his bank's merger.

Then Mr. De Armas weighed in. "Tom has a good point," he wrote. "Anything you can do to make the employees feel more at ease will help. Stress is a natural byproduct of mergers."

Trading insights has been the hobby's greatest pleasure for Mr. De Armas, an affable 35-year-old who taught himself to program computers in the Basic language while on injury leave from the Army.

Mr. De Armas now knows several programming languages, and is an on-line veteran. "I was probably one of the only ones who used to get on chat lines on Prodigy at 1,200 baud," he recalled.

His Web site radiates enthusiasm for the medium. In a page of tips about how to design a good site, he offers suggestions on how to link an electronic-mail address to a Web page, deftly suggesting: "The HTML code for this is easy." (HTML, or hypertext markup language, is the design language for Web sites.)

For the less computer literate, Mr. De Armas' site offers a readable electronic magazine - which he writes and edits - on Internet-related banking issues. A recent issue included a question-and-answer session with one of the designers of BankAmerica Corp.'s Web site and a review of the site - both presented in Mr. De Armas' effusive style.

"You can't help but be impressed with BofA's site," he wrote in his review. "I tested the response time of the site at 9,600, 14,400, 28,800, and of course our leased line. ... My congratulations to the staff of BofA for a fine site."

Stephen Hugley, senior vice president and manager of information services at Comerica, calls Mr. De Armas "one of our more literate client/server technicians.

"He was instrumental in putting together our Web site, and he is also instrumental in helping other areas of the bank when they have Internet- type questions or issues," Mr. Hugley said.

"It's a joy to work with somebody like Frank because he really has a good vision of where the Internet is going and what it's value will be."

The Internet Banker site (, which now fields more than 20,000 hits a week, has won two awards and garnered several speaking invitations for its creator.

Mr. De Armas' wife, Janice, runs a companion Web site called Metro Online, which contains information and listings about Detroit-area happenings.

"You meet all kinds of people on the Web - it's amazing," Mr. De Armas said. "Just think of it as a big neighborhood."

Among his electronic acquaintances is Tony Plath, director of the University of North Carolina's Center for Banking Studies. Mr. Plath's banking students use the Internet Banker site to collaborate on projects.

"The real value in Frank's Web board is that a lot of bankers are point- and-click type Web users - they don't know how to post their own home page in HTML, and they don't have time for it," Mr. Plath said. "This allows you to post messages that people can read and to maintain threads of discussion."

Bradley Streeter, a community reinvestment and development specialist with the Kansas City, Mo., outpost of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, views the Internet Banker site as a "wonderful research tool."

"I was interested in how banks are using the electronic forum to reach low and moderate-income people," he said. "It helped inform me on what other people are thinking about the issue."

Bill Burnham, a banking consultant at Booz-Allen & Hamilton, uses the site regularly. "I check it because they catalogue the top 100 banks on the Internet," he said. "I refer people to it as well."

Most of the site's content is free, but Mr. De Armas does charge for his daily newsletter. Colleagues at Comerica receive complimentary subscriptions.

And he has been attracting sponsors to his banking site. One advertiser, the principal of a Detroit-based brokerage firm, said the response has exceeded newspaper ads.

"I was amazed," said the principal, Michael H. DeLap. "I thought I would put something out there in cyberspace and never hear anything about it again."

Mr. De Armas is not the first person whose professional interests led him to develop his own cottage industry. Comic strip fans can look to Scott Adams, the creator of "Dilbert," as someone who created an unlikely career out of a straitlaced corporate job - at Pacific Bell.

Mr. De Armas said he is content to stay in banking and enjoy the kudos on his Web site.

"They love it here at Comerica," he said. "My management is really happy. It showed a little initiative."

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