Officials representing institutions of widely varying size and sophistication found programs about the Internet and the "virtual branch" informative and compared the convention's "symposium" offerings favorably to past educational programs. Industry observers said that although some credit unions are on the leading edge of high-tech delivery systems, others are light years behind and anxious to join the wave. "There's a huge gap and I think that gap is going to widen," said Peter S. Simonsen, a manager at McGladrey & Pullen, a St. Paul, Minn., accountant firm. "Well-managed credit unions have a great future and I think the smaller credit unions are going to have a hard time." Everybody was boning up. "I'm real weak in the technology area so I'm real pleased to be here," said Norma J. Benson, chairman of $73 million-asset Matanuska Valley Federal Credit Union, Palmer, Alaska. On the other end of the spectrum was Don Mullins, executive vice president of Vought Heritage Federal Credit Union, Grand Prairie, Tex. The $280 million-asset institution has a site on the Internet's World Wide Web. It is planning to introduce a Visa debit card in the first quarter of 1996 and a PC-based home banking system next summer. "The conference has something for everybody," Mr. Mullins said. Even vendors had high praise. Although some grumbled that credit union directors were more interested in entering raffles than in talking shop, others saw a greater seriousness. "It's been the best credit union show we've had," said Stephen E. Drake, field marketing manager for Bell & Howell Document Management Products Co. "We've seen more interested and qualified prospects." Bell & Howell was one of about a dozen high-tech vendors in a roped-off area.

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