Internet sites for retail banking far outnumber those for corporate banking, a survey by Booz-Allen & Hamilton has found.

The management consulting firm identified 519 bank sites on the World Wide Web that offer on-line corporate functions-most of them rudimentary. By contrast, it found more than 1,200 retail sites, many with advanced transaction capabilities.

However, in a survey of 220 financial institutions, Booz-Allen found that 65% of corporate banks without a Web site plan to build one shortly.

"Only 2% of corporate banks have a Web site of any kind, and 92% of those are very entry-level stuff: nothing more than an electronic marketing brochure," said David Howe, partner in New York-based Booz-Allen's banking and capital markets group, who supervised the international study.

It also found that major banks plan to quadruple their investments in Internet offerings by 2000, and that 42% of them plan to have advanced sites offering complete interactive corporate banking.

Booz-Allen projected 39% of corporate cash management customers will use some form of Internet banking within three years.

"It's very understandable that retail is ahead because the Internet is a very consumer-driven thing," Mr. Howe said. "But we think the application fits corporate banking very well, and the price of entry is incredibly low."

Booz-Allen projected there will be 2,000 corporate banking sites in three years, and that one-third of those would have transaction capabilities.

"Six to seven hundred operational corporate banks are going to be out there in the next three years, and that's bigger news than 2,000 Web sites," Mr. Howe said.

All the advanced corporate Web sites today are in Australia, Canada, and the United States, Mr. Howe said. He cited BankAmerica Corp., First Union Corp., NationsBank Corp., and Huntington Bancshares as examples of banks with progressive corporate sites.

Security fears may be holding corporate banks back, Mr. Howe said. Given that dollar amounts are generally larger in business than in retail accounts, the perceived risk involved in using the Internet is greater, he added.

Booz-Allen anticipates banks will construct extranets, containing their risks while permitting network access by certain customers. The study said the emergence of open communications standards will also help move corporate banking on-line.

"There are lots of plans on paper," Mr. Howe said. "Over 80% of the people we talked to are more than just interested. They describe themselves as in the midst of planning for this revolution, but it's difficult to find anybody who is there."

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