Global Concepts Inc., an Atlanta-based consulting firm, has created an on-line forum to let bankers and vendors swap electronic commerce war stories and exchange ideas.
"I wish I could say the goal of the group was to develop a standard or some great technology, but it's not," said David C. Stewart, a Global Concepts consultant who moderates the Financial Services Internet Forum.
"It's just an open information exchange among bankers to discuss their experiences using the World Wide Web to sell and implement their services."
Talk, in this case, is not cheap. Membership costs $4,750, entitling a bank to attend three consortium meetings and receive three research reports.
The 20 bank members include Chase Manhattan Corp., CoreStates Financial Corp., Crestar Financial Corp., NationsBank Corp., Norwest Corp., and PNC Bank Corp.
Nonbank sponsors include Checkfree Corp., Cybercash Inc., Microsoft Corp., Visa International, MasterCard International, Verifone Inc., and Sun Microsystems Inc.
"What has been most interesting and valuable to me has been being able to hear some of the trials and tribulations other banks are going through, and being able to share and understand potential solutions," said Linda A. Weber, senior vice president of electronic commerce at CoreStates.
Ms. Weber said CoreStates will "absolutely be a player" in Internet banking and is benefiting from others' advice.
"I haven't felt any reluctance on the part of those colleagues that are further ahead of us," she said.
"Because the channel is so new and there is not yet a defined model for how we're all really going to make money on this thing, I think that lends itself to folks being open about the hurdles they're facing and how they're trying to overcome them."
The consortium has met twice since it was formed in April. The next meeting is scheduled for February.
Members say they also talk informally - both on-line and off - about issues of common interest.
"Our membership sees the Web as a sales and marketing channel, and that's frustrating to those folks in remote banking who insist you must go to bill-pay right away," Mr. Stewart said.
"Our group is coming to the conclusion that Web banking is more evolutionary than revolutionary. It's not easy to walk into the chairman's office, throw down a business plan, and say 'I want $5 million for this.'
"There is no hardened business case. The Internet is not a product, it's a delivery channel."
Members see "cross-selling" as the greatest potential benefit of the medium. Although the banks are openly competing for customers in the on-line world, Mr. Stewart said consortium members have shown no restraint in group meetings.
"People just show up and spill their guts," he said. "The notion here is you believe you're smarter than your competition, and if everyone opens up and shares their experience, you will walk away the wiser."