Wachovia Corp. is sharpening its focus on on-line banking and brokering with the creation of a division to consolidate its Internet operations.

Officials expect the digital financial services division to eliminate duplicate efforts in the previously disparate on-line banking, on-line investment, and Internet products groups. The new division also includes oversight of automated teller machines, debit and smart cards, and interactive kiosks.

The Winston-Salem, N.C.-based banking company plans to focus on Internet efforts "more intensely," said Lawrence G. Baxter, executive vice president and head of the new unit. He joined the $64 billion-asset company four years ago and previously ran the unit that managed the bank's Web site and intranet.

"The immediate priority is to implement an Internet financial services strategy," he said.

The plan appeared to prompt a run-up in Wachovia's stock price, which rose $3.1875 March 4 when the new division was announced, to $88.25.

"It may be coincidental," said George Bicher, an analyst at BT Alex. Brown. "I think it's a positive in that it will augment distribution. But it's not clear that it has yet played into stock valuation."

Wachovia, which has about 100,000 on-line customers, soon will begin testing electronic bill presentment with an undisclosed provider, Mr. Baxter said. It uses software from Security First Technologies to support on-line banking.

It also will start accepting credit applications on-line, first for mortgages, then autos, credit cards, and home equity loans.

The new unit is exploring relationships with various Internet portals in the Southeast. It has links and advertisements on the "Money" section of accessatlanta.com, a Cox Interactive Media Web site offering Atlanta- related news and information. And it partially sponsors similar city- oriented Web sites in Norfolk, Va., and Charlotte, N.C.

"We're testing how we ought to be distributed around the Internet," Mr. Baxter said.

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