In a bet that more personalized services will boost its Internet banking profits, First Union National Bank announced it will install software from Vignette Corp.

First Union will use the Austin, Tex., company's StoryServer software to deliver tailored content to on-line banking customers.

It joins three other banking companies among the nation's 12-largest- Bank One Corp., PNC Bank Corp., and Citigroup- in using Vignette software.

Banks are pinning hopes for improved Internet banking profits on an ability to customize. With greater knowledge of customers, banks could establish on-line banking routines that are extremely convenient, leading to greater loyalty. In addition, they could cross-sell products that are really needed.

Personalization will help First Union "make the most out of the hundreds of thousands of customers who bank on-line," said Parrish Arturi, vice president of channel development at the bank.

The software guides customers through three stages, each of which makes assumptions about the interests of the visitor and then serves up related content.

"We try to personalize the experiences of site visitors to get them to become profitable customers," said Martin F. Vega, financial services marketing manager at Vignette.

In the first, or "anonymous," stage, the software makes judgments about what parts of the site interest a visitor based on what is clicked, Mr. Vega said.

At the second, "interested" stage, the software identifies a visitor's interests based on the experiences and visits of similar customers.

Once the customer reaches the last stage and is "well known," the software displays forms requesting additional information in the hope of turning the visitor into a customer. An activity log of each customer's Web site experience is stored in a data base to help the bank make decisions, Mr. Vega said.

Mr. Arturi said First Union plans to integrate these data with off-line information to ensure a unified customer experience. "We want our customers to have the same experience across banking channels," he said.

First Union also evaluated systems from BroadVision of Redwood City, Calif., Futuretense in Acton, Mass., and Documentum in Pleasanton, Calif. Vignette was selected because it offered personalization, content management, and matching abilities, Mr. Arturi said.

Octavio Marenzi, research analyst at Meridien Research in Newton, Mass., called the Internet potentially the best outlet for cross-selling and building profitable customer relationships.

Service representatives in the branch "are not the best sellers," he said. But over the Internet, banks don't have to worry about creating a sales culture and retraining staff, he said.

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