Reistad Continues Quest For the |Checkless Society'

Almost 30 years have passed since Dale L. Reistad helped coin the expression "the checkless society," the technological nirvana where banks will replace paper-based payments with electronics.

That utopia is not much closer today, but the dauntless Mr. Reistad, former president of the Electronic Funds Transfer Association, is continuing to pursue his quest.

"We will drive paper out of the system," says Mr. Reistad. "Whether it will be in our lifetime, I don't know. But it will happen."

His latest venture speaks to his commitment to the checkless society and his role as a visionary and entrepreneur in the banking industry. Mr. Reistad is director of electronic payment products for TV Answer Inc., a five-year-old Reston, Va., company that has developed an interactive video data service that will allow consumers to use a remote control to buy goods and pay bills using their TV.

Box Provides Link to Suppliers

A small box attached to the television set lets viewers communicate with service suppliers such as banks, stores, and shopping services. The communications are transmitted over radio waves.

Using a hand-held remote control device similar to those used in video games, consumers can point to items or commands on the screen and transmit data to pay bills, check balances, and buy goods.

The features of the service are similar to those of home banking programs that were tried but often abandoned because of high costs and lack of wide consumer appeal.

Mr. Reistad has been at the forefront of electronic funds transfer for more than two decades. In 1960 he founded Payment Systems Inc., a research firm he later sold to American Express Co., and founded the American Bankers Association's operations division, which is still in existence.

He was president and CEO of the Electronic Funds Transfer Association for four years. He resigned in 1989. Some sources close to the organization said Mr. Reistad was asked to leave because of the group's deteriorating financial condition.

After he left the EFTA, Mr. Reistad was director of banking and finance for the strategic systems group of James Martin Associates, a consulting firm. There he contributed to a report that dealt with telecommunications in the year 2020 and its impact on banking and payment systems. He joined TV Answer in May.

TV Answer tested its system in a small trial last year in Fairfax County, Va., that did not include a bill payment option. Now the company is waiting for approval from the Federal Communications Commission of a measure that will set aside a portion of the radio spectrum in metropolitan areas for interactive services.

It is not clear how popular such a service will be with consumers. Mr. Reistad is well aware that consumers are slow to change habits and that it will be a long time before many stop paying bills by check. But he believes TV Answer will succeed where other home-based electronic banking programs have failed.

"He is a visionary guy," said Bruce Burchfield, chief executive officer of National Payment Clearinghouse and former president of the Cirrus ATM network.

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