Meca, a pioneering financial software company that has been controlled by banks since 1995, is seeking a buyer.
The Trumbull, Conn., company, best known for the Managing Your Money personal financial management programs, said Wednesday that it has hired the San Francisco investment bank Hambrecht & Quist to "assist in finding a new majority owner."
Meca's newly introduced Internet system, Moneyscape, has appeal well beyond the financial sector, said chairman, president, and chief executive officer Paul D. Harrison. New ownership would be better able to exploit those opportunities for both "legal and practical" reasons, he said.
In tandem with Integrion Financial Network, with which its ownership overlaps, Meca Software LLC had been viewed as a crucial vehicle for helping banks to keep their customer relationships from passing to a new breed of high-technology competitor.
Both consortia, however, are going through changes driven by alterations in the competitive landscape and in their owners' technology priorities.
Integrion-consisting of 15 banks, International Business Machines Corp., and Visa U.S.A.-is exploring a restructuring that will likely result in a smaller and more cohesive membership. Meca is declaring its original mission accomplished and saying it needs to go beyond financial services to control its destiny and keep 270 employees happy.
NationsBank Corp. and BankAmerica Corp. acquired Meca in July 1995 from H&R Block for $35 million, amid fears that Microsoft Corp. and Intuit Inc. would become banks. (Three more banks bought Meca stakes in 1995. With the NationsBank-BankAmerica merger there are now six owners.)
Intuit and Microsoft in 1994 and 1995 were pursuing a never-consummated merger. Their Quicken and Money personal financial management, or PFM, software together dominate a market in which Managing Your Money is a distant third.
All of Meca's current owners-BankAmerica, Citigroup, Fleet Financial Group, Royal Bank of Canada, U.S. Bancorp, and the insurance company New England Financial-and a few customers such as National City Corp. and PNC Bank Corp. have built home banking services on that PFM foundation.
More than a million customers have enrolled to use the software through their financial institutions, Meca said. It claims a 30% share of PFM home banking customers.
"We intend to continue to fully support this industry," said Mr. Harrison, who has been with Meca for nine of its 17 years. "But there is tremendous consolidation in the financial services world. "To be competitive in technology you have to have a big market, and the financial services group we sell to is shrinking."
He said Moneyscape, developed with Oracle Corp., Marimba Inc., and Sun Microsystems Inc. and its Java language, can be of use to "anyone that wants to enhance or personalize its relationships with customers," such as publishers, companies operating employee intranets, and franchise networks like H&R Block.
New capital could come from an Internet portal company, a systems integrator, or even a financial services provider that would be better suited than a bank consortium to take venture-capital-type risks, he said. The current owners are open to retaining a minority interest but "it is not etched in stone."
Bank of America senior vice president Mark Argosh, in a prepared statement, said Meca has "exceeded our expectations" and the "board of managers is confident that a new majority owner will help Meca realize its extraordinary potential."
"Meca has been successful, but to offer new capabilities it needs to expand beyond financial services," said U.S. Bancorp spokesman Don Waage.
David Weisman, group director of Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass., said Meca was struggling with the consortium structure and the fact that PFM is past its prime. "The current ownership does not give Meca the mandate to get into the broader electronic commerce space."
Mr. Harrison said he sought permission from his board last summer to research the nonfinancial possibilities. One harsh reality, he said, is that Meca needs 20 Moneyscape installations to pay back its investment-seen as impossible in the consolidating banking market.
In Hambrecht & Quist, Meca has an adviser with much Internet experience and "access to senior management levels" at potential acquirers, Mr. Harrison said. "We have a list of 50 companies" and the process could take three to four months, he estimated.