PNC Bank Corp. has begun offering a home banking service that lets customers electronically transfer money to and from accounts at other financial services providers, such as mutual fund companies.

The service, based on personal finance software from Meca Software Inc., is a nod to the fact that consumers increasingly spread their investment and savings dollars among a variety of financial service providers.

"The institution that helps a customer manage those multiple relationships has an advantage in being the primary provider," said Thomas S. Kunz, vice president and manager of electronic banking for the Pittsburgh-based bank.

PNC's customized version of Meca's Managing Your Money also will let users connect to PNC's World Wide Web site for free.

In addition, bank customers who want to get on the Internet will be offered a $2 per month discount through an alliance between PNC and MCI.

Experts said PNC is the first to use on-line banking software to allow cross-institution transfers, which are generally completed overnight through the automated clearing house network.

Though bankers have historically been reluctant to furnish customers with electronic access to competing institutions, some observers expect the Internet to change those habits.

"The future role of financial services will be about managing money across institutions," said David Weisman, senior analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass. PNC is "certainly taking an early charge into uncharted territory."

Mr. Kunz said bank-owned Meca was not the only vendor considered. PNC chose it because of its ability to customize the software in a relatively quick five months.

Royal Bank of Canada also unveiled a home banking service based on Managing Your Money. Like the PNC service, Royal Direct PC Banking allows customers to access the Internet.

Royal Bank, a Meca co-owner and participant in the Integrion Financial Network consortium with International Business Machines Corp. and 15 other banks, will use the IBM Global Network as its Internet service provider.'

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