PC-based retail financial services such as electronic bill presentment won't necessarily rob banks of their relationships with customers-despite the role of third-party players like CheckFree, Princeton Telecom, and Visa Interactive. That's according to a recent survey commissioned by Home Financial Network, Inc. (HFN), of Westport, CT.

Even as consumers' awareness of home banking via PCs grows to impressive levels-some 92 percent of survey respondents knew of PC-based bill payment-most retail customers felt they'd rather stick with their bank rather than go to an outside source for bill pay. Some 74 percent of bill payers said they'd prefer that their bank, S&L, or credit union provide them with bill-presentment services, as opposed to only 15 percent who said they'd prefer a technology or software company offer these services. Respondents cited security (33 percent) and privacy (26 percent) as chief concerns when considering adoption of electronic bill payment.

Above all, the survey signaled that the time may finally be right for banks to offer electronic bill presentment, says HFN vp of marketing Tom Dittrich. He points to two interrelated factors: "About two years ago, you really started having a lot of banks look into home banking, and that took off, which correlates to an increased number of computers in households."

Another shift expected to underline this study's findings is America's changing demographics-most notably, Generation Xers' emergence into the workforce and, thus, the bill-paying population. Dittrich suggests this population segment is showing up more and more to bill-payment service providers: "Certainly, as you get people using computers since they were in grade school, (for them) it's like 'what do you mean I can't pay bills with my computer?' You're seeing a large group of (younger) consumers getting out there, getting jobs, and so forth." FB

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