A leading provider of home banking services through computerized "screen" telephones has announced it plans to offer its bill payment service through conventional phones as well.
Online Resources and Communications Corp., which began to market home banking via the special phones in 1992, will be piloting the new service at several financial institutions over the next six months.
The service, called Online 24-Hour Banker, is designed to work in conjunction with existing automated voice-response systems to allow customers to pay bills from home. This will enable banks to expand the level of service without requiring consumers to obtain a new device for their homes, officials said.
Robert Drennan, executive vice president at Mclean, Va.-based Online Resources, said that adding telephone delivery to the company's service was a "logical next step."
"There are still a lot of people who want to sign up for the service but, for whatever reason, don't want a screen phone," he said.
Mr. Drennan added that regular phones offer several advantages over screen phones.
"We can't ignore that everyone has a telephone," he said, noting that phones are more portable because people don't have to be at home to use them.
Banks are also reluctant to get into home banking without at least a voice-response capability, to ensure that they don't leave anybody out, said Mr. Drennan.
The bill payment service will be offered in conjunction with the company's ScreenPhone services, said officials.
The ScreenPhone, which Online manufactures, is both a conventional telephone and a remote banking terminal that enables customers to pay bills, schedule payments, transfer funds between accounts, inquire about balances, and complete account activity and other services.
The phones were designed to operate much like automated teller machines. The service uses a transaction processing system and communications links that are based on ATM switches and public data networks.
Online provides home banking through the ScreenPhone to five financial institutions, including NationsBank Corp. The Charlotte, N.C.-based superregional has been offering the home banking service in the Washington-Baltimore region for two years.
Recent studies have shown that banks are putting greater emphasis on alternative delivery channels. Electronic delivery, which includes ATM transactions and home banking, accounted for 10% of all transactions initiated by retail customers in 1994, according to an American Banker/Andersen Consulting Group study.
While that figure is expected to grow to 15% in the next three years, it is dwarfed by the volume of transactions conducted over the telephone. Customer phone calls are expected to jump from 17% of the total today to 32% in 1997.
Online Resources's goal, Mr. Drennan said, is to "broaden customer appeal even further."
The company expects to roll out services that can be accessed from personal computers and ATMs by 1995.
The company is keeping watch, as well, on developments in interactive television and other communications devices, officials said.
Mr. Drennan noted that ATMs have the capability to provide expanded remote services such as bill payment and statement printing - two functions the company is considering.
He said the development of services to be provided through multiple devices illustrates Online's "device-independent" position, enabling customers to choose the access channel.
"People will use a particular device depending on where they are at the moment," said Mr. Drennan.
Online's customers currently use the model 120 ScreenPhone to access services, but new versions of the phone - model 220 are scheduled to go out this month.
The company's new generation of screen phones provide access to interactive services and add other features, such as a card swipe for debit and credit card transactions.
The phones can also provide telephone company services, such as caller ID, call waiting, and call forwarding.