Home Financial Network hopes to improve the economics of home banking by helping banks push marketing messages through the Internet.
The company's forthcoming Integrated Marketing System will let banks create full-color product pitches and brand advertisements on its Home ATM software. Home ATM lets consumers bank and pay bills electronically.
The approach is an example of "push" technology, which has taken much of the Internet business community by storm.
In contrast to the "push" messages, conventional browser technology requires users to seek out Web sites and download, or "pull," information to their personal computers.
"This gives the financial institution the ability to display its wares in a cost-effective manner," said Daniel M. Schley, chairman and chief executive officer of Westport, Conn.-based Home Financial. "We want to marry the capabilities of the Internet with the elegant ease of use of a graphically rich personal finance manager."
As with the electronic branch push technology that Meca Software LLC is developing with Marimba Inc. of Palo Alto, Calif., Home Financial's marketing system will not require recipients to have a Web browser.
PC banking customers would launch the software and connect to their demand deposit accounts by dialing into their banks.
Because the Home ATM software uses the Internet, graphic images written in the hypertext markup language (HTML) can be transmitted easily from the bank's server computer to home PC screens.
A piece of software called the controller decides which messages to transmit to individual users. Ads and "brand support" messages with the bank's logo and tag line are flashed in a 7-inch by 1-inch window at the bottom of the screen.
"The biggest struggle that banks are having with home banking is preserving and protecting their brands," said John C. Backus, president of Intelidata Technologies Co., Herndon, Va., which owns a 40% stake in Home Financial Network.
Because most on-line banking technology providers "are set up to run a commodity-type business, it is difficult to do something that has your own look and feel," he said. "This is putting the bank back into home banking.
"It lets banks start tying other parts of the bank to the core DDA (demand-deposit account) customer."
Home Financial has designed about 250 prototype advertisements that can be customized by financial institutions.
The Integrated Marketing System is expected to be in testing at two of the company's 28 bank partners by yearend, said Thomas S. Dittrich, vice president of marketing. He declined to name the test banks.
Although Webster Bank of Waterbury, Conn., hasn't decided whether to use the new Internet marketing system, it has reported success in bringing customers on-line using Home ATM.
Peter Hickey, a direct banking executive at Webster, said it has 3,000 active accounts. "The system is simple, reliable, easy to use, and easy to load," he said.
"We are targeting first-time users, and it supports what most consumers want to do, which is to get on, access and transfer funds, and pay their bills."