Three of the top 10 banking companies have introduced a new variable into electronic bill payment and presentment, one of the banking industry's most talked-about market opportunities.

Attempting to push the billing and payment-processing business into a higher gear, Chase Manhattan Corp., First Union Corp., and Wells Fargo & Co. on Wednesday announced the formation of a joint venture tentatively titled "The Exchange." It would start out by building a bill-routing infrastructure around the banks' relationships with thousands of businesses and millions of retail customers.

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