Intuit Inc.'s Quicken.com last week became the first Internet financial portal site to deliver electronic bills.
Quicken.com, which offers financial services from multiple banks, insurance companies, and brokerages, is offering bill presentment in a test with a limited number of consumers. Users of the site can view bills from seven companies that use Checkfree Holdings Corp.'s E-Bill system. The Palo Alto, Calif., company plans to make electronic billing widely available in the third quarter.
The launching keeps Intuit in the lead among providers of electronic bill presentment, which is expected to become a popular consumer service. Intuit has made the service available through its Quicken personal financial management software since late 1997.
The efforts further the company's goal of eliminating the "paper chase" of traditional commerce, said William Harris, president and chief executive officer, at an American Banker conference on electronic billing last week in San Francisco.
Intuit's forays into electronic billing also underscore the competition Internet portals could offer banks, according to industry experts.
"When a consumer goes to another site because the bank doesn't offer electronic bill presentment, it represents a threat to the bank" because it divides consumer loyalty, said Ted Spooner, chief executive officer of Corillian Corp., an Internet banking software provider.
Rumors that the Yahoo Inc. portal company was considering acquiring Checkfree, the leading electronic bill consolidator, also fueled bank fears that Internet leaders could pull financial services loyalties away from banks. Only a handful of banks are now presenting bills electronically, all using Checkfree's E-Bill.
Intuit officials said they want to cooperate with all comers in the electronic billing arena-including banks-that would help them broaden the number of bills they could send.
"We look forward to working with banks," said Nancy E. Tubbs, group product manager of Web finance at Intuit. "Quicken is just one portal, and banks are going to be huge financial services portals."
To this end, Intuit is vocally supporting industry standards that would let information from any biller or consolidator be presented at any portal or bank Web site.
"We need an open network," said Mr. Harris. "It can't be a single vendor at any step of the way."
Bill Burnham, senior research analyst for electronic commerce at Credit Suisse First Boston, said Intuit is taking a "pragmatic" approach by pushing for standards and seeking a range of partners.
In a sign that Intuit is branching out to increase the number of bills it can present, Mr. Harris said it recently signed letters of intent to work with International Billing Services, a subsidiary of USCS International Inc., and Princeton Ecom. Both companies help billers format electronic statements.
Presenting bills from multiple sources like these will help Intuit develop the critical mass of bills that would encourage more consumers to adopt electronic billing, Mr. Harris added.