A bank might seem an unlikely place for another bank to go for help in developing a Web site.
But requests from other banks were what prompted UMB Bank in Kansas City, Mo., to launch UMB WebSolutions, a service offering site development and hosting, a customizable shopping cart application, and payment processing with real-time authorization, transaction settlement, and fraud protection for credit cards.
Mike Wade, UMB Bank's director of Internet and data security services, said most of the 2,000 small banks in the region that UMB serves do not have their own technology staff. Some of them are UMB customers, he said, and last year inquiries for Web site assistance started rolling in from banks and small-business owners.
"At first we said, 'It's not really something we do,' but we were getting inundated with requests so we decided to come forward with our own product offering," Mr. Wade said. "As a bank, we have that trusted relationship with them, so I think in their minds it was natural for them to ask us for help."
WebSolutions was formally introduced Monday, and the bank has not advertised its availability yet. Even so, Mr. Wade said, 12 customers are signed up, evenly split between banks and small-business owners.
WebSolutions is the latest in a series of offerings the bank began rolling out in 1997. UMB has common Web services such as cash management and banking but has also added a few more specialized products to the mix. Its eScout service, launched in 1999 and now spun off as a subsidiary, enables commercial customers and banks to link together for aggregated purchasing power. Its Internet Proxy Voting product lets public companies have a Web site set up for shareholder voting.
Next month UMB will introduce TotalProposal.com, which allows requests for proposals to be made and responded to online. Digital certificates will be used to authenticate documents and ensure that no unauthorized changes are made. Like the WebSolutions service, TotalProposal.com arose out of conversations with the bank's customers, Mr. Wade said.
UMB Bank was planning to bid on a request for proposals from one of its customers, a government agency. During those discussions, Mr. Wade said, the possibility of creating an online request-for-proposals systems was raised. The bank pulled out of the bid and developed the system for the government agency, then decided to make it available to other companies. Mr. Wade said that to his knowledge the service is the first of its kind to be offered by a financial institution.
UMB Financial Corp., the parent company of UMB Bank, has assets of $7.9 billion and 170 locations throughout the Midwest. Mr. Wade said that while basic Internet banking services are "kind of the minimum" for UMB to stay competitive, its specialty products were designed around its clients' needs.
"Our driving force is, How can we make our customers more successful?" he said. "That was really the focus here."