At the time, nobody really expected anything inspirational to come of Integrion Financial Network, a technology consortium composed primarily of banks. Early forecasts had the group disbanding faster than Bill Gates could say "dinosaur."

But Integrion, which is owned by 17 major industry forces and publisher of the Gold Messaging Standard, could be a viable, if not surprising, contender that provides Internet banking connectivity options, says Yankee Group analyst Dan Amdur-if, that is, the group remains backed by its present deep-pocketed owners. Should the bank pack and IBM Corp. stick together, Integrion will have economies of scale to allow banks to reduce unit costs and development expense-a significant competitive advantage, says Integrion spokesperson Emily Mendell.

In support of the consortium, Integrion owner Royal Bank of Canada plans to offer a Gold-enabled, bank-branded version of Meca's Managing Your Money (MYM) through Integrion's network later in the year, says Royal Bank of Canada's Maurice St. Jean, senior manager, delivery strategies and strategic alliances.

By connecting through Integrion, Royal Bank officials expect to cut telecommunications costs and position itself to offer additional services as they become available, says St. Jean. The Integrion platform will also allow the bank to connect directly with customers through Intuit's Quicken and Microsoft Money.

Further, Integrion has been reportedly working with Microsoft and Intuit to converge Gold and OFX. In the short term, says Microsoft business development manager Matt Cone, there will be interoperability between the two specifications, and a server solution will be introduced to translate OFX into Gold. Long term, the goal is to merge the two into one specification.

By all accounts, the proposed conflict between OFX and Gold is strictly hype. "It's in everybody's interest to have one common standard," says St. Jean. "And when I say everybody, I mean everybody-the banks, their customers, software providers, hardware providers. As long as there are multiple standards out there, our collective customer won't get the benefit from the technology."

If the recent hand-shaking on OFX between staunch competitors Intuit and Microsoft is any indication of things to come, the industry is eager to settle on one standard, so long as it works, regardless of whose name is on it. Says Cone: "There's just no spec war here."

-prince tfn.com

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