At the Bank Administration Institute, sponsor of what has become the banking industry's biggest convention, internal planning documents still refer to the event as ATMXX.

It is a throwback to the days when the conference, taking place this week and known to the outside world as Retail Delivery '96, revolved around automated teller machines.

The meeting that gets under way in Dallas with preliminaries today and tomorrow and a full-scale trade show Wednesday through Friday is, by the antiquated cataloguing system, ATM17 - the 17th edition.

But it will be hard for the visitors - 7,000 are expected, 3,000 of them paying to attend and 4,000 connected with equipment exhibitors - to find traces of the old ATM sell-a-thons.

Retail Delivery '96 - itself shortened from Retail Delivery Systems Conference, the name for the last several years - will more resemble one of the computer industry circuses like Comdex or Internet World.

The ATM manufacturers that once held sway - Diebold, NCR, and ICL/Fujitsu - will be present. But their ATM wares will be overshadowed by a newer wave of remote banking and electronic commerce technology. The ATM vendors also will be just a small part of what has evolved into the most important general banking show of the year, the one place where senior bank executives can hear and rub shoulders with some of the best thinkers in high technology.

Continuing a tradition begun last year with an appearance by Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates, two of the heroes of Silicon Valley - chief executive officers Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems Inc. and Andrew S. Grove of Intel Corp. - have prime speaking slots in Dallas.

Mr. McNealy's topic at the opening session Wednesday: "Why Electronic Commerce Is Just a Screen Away."

Mr. Grove, on Thursday, will tout the virtues of the "connected PC."

Keynote billing still goes to a banker, KeyCorp chairman Robert W. Gillespie. His appearance is timely, given the announcement last week that Cleveland-based KeyCorp plans to cut its work force at least 10% and axe about 280 of its 1,200 branches.

The mavens in the audience will be eager to hear how KeyCorp intends to recast its delivery system through electronic and remote means. But if the experience last year in Atlanta is any guide - Mr. Gates was more eagerly awaited than the keynote speech of NationsBank chairman Hugh L. McColl - Mr. Gillespie has little hope of matching Mr. McNealy and Mr. Grove on the glitz-o-meter.

Even so, the juxtaposition of banker and technologist reflects exactly what BAI set out to accomplish with the Retail Delivery series.

"The cost structure of retail access channels is changing," said the prominent bank technology consultant Diogo Teixeira. Emerging electronic delivery methods are demonstrably less costly than brick-and-mortar branch networks, but bankers have found it difficult to displace the old costs.

"The percentage of time (bankers) devote to information technology will more than double," said Mr. Teixeira, head of Tower Group in Newton, Mass., who will moderate what is billed as a "great debate" Wednesday among Microsoft Corp., Intuit Inc., Checkfree Corp., Security First Technologies, Visa Interactive, and the much-speculated-upon Integrion Financial Network. Integrion, a consortium of International Business Machines Corp. and 16 major banks, will be like a debutante at the ball, its Retail Delivery premiere.

"The bankers are interested in hearing what role the technology companies are playing," said Rockwell F. Clancy 2d, executive vice president of BAI's conference division.

"It is a combination of strong educational, informational, and a little bit of an entertainment value," he said of the conference. This year's theme is "Beyond the Buzz Words: Using Tomorrow's Technology to Make Money Today."

It remains to be seen if the buzz of a 350-company, 1,000-booth exhibit hall in the Dallas Convention Center helps the bankers to put it all in the perspective that their hard realities at home require.

"The bottom line was that exhibitors looked at the phenomenal success of the conference, compared it with other venues, and placed their bets on this one," said Mr. Clancy.

One of the biggest "vendors," Intuit, doesn't even rent a booth. It plans to pick up publicity (and good will) through a southwestern "fiesta" that it advertised with the teaser: "What's Hotter than Salsa? A free copy of Quicken." Last year, the company gave out 3,500 free copies of its personal financial management software to bankers, said spokesman Robert Schettino.

As befits a big-league "technology week," news announcements will be coming hot and heavy.

The Chicago-based BAI is using the occasion to release two major studies: one on "marketing excellence," conducted with First Manhattan Consulting Group, and an assessment of the small-business market with McKinsey & Co.

Today, U.S. Bancorp of Portland, Ore., is expected to open two new retail channels - via the Internet and America Online Inc.'s banking center - to supplement its long-standing services with Quicken and Microsoft Money.

Price Waterhouse is venturing closer to the banking business through an agreement with Edify Corp. that will make the Big Six accounting firm essentially a systems integrator. The agreement puts the company in direct competition with Security First Technologies, the software arm of the Internet bank Security First.

"There are a lot of software vendors out there, but banks are unwilling to make a bet-your-business decision when the market doesn't have a critical-mass provider," said Gary Meshell of Price Waterhouse.

Block Financial Corp., the tax preparer's subsidiary marketing the Conductor "supersite" for banks on the World Wide Web, is expected to announce it has selected the QuickQuote system for real-time quotes on more than 15,000 different insurance policies.

CFI Proservices, Versatility Inc., and Network Controls International Inc. will be among many delivering new call center systems.

Orga Card Systems, a German company raising its U.S. profile in the smart card business, will announce Leo, a loyalty and electronic purse system mainly for closed retail applications such as restaurants, hotels, resorts, and shopping malls.

Lower on the tech spectrum, Cash Technologies Inc. of Los Angeles announces the launch of CoinBank - self-service machines that sort pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters and then credit the customers' accounts - with Home Savings of America.

In the seminar sessions, Security First chief executive James S. Mahan 3d will recount "One Year on the World's Busiest Highway." David Weisman, a senior analyst at Forrester Research, will offer a progress report on other banks' on-line initiatives.

Catherine V. Corby, director of electronic delivery at Jacksonville, Fla.-based Barnett Banks Inc., will discuss how it "partners with the entertainment industry."

"Multi-Media Money: Full Service Banking in the Age of the Internet," is the topic of Huntington Bancshares senior vice president William M. Randle. Mimi Rossetti of the research firm Payment Systems Inc. discusses "Targeting the On-Line Banking Consumer," and Jane M. Wood of Product Evaluation Inc. speaks on "Capturing Today's Youth."

The smart card spotlight will turn on Janet Hartung-Crane, senior vice president of Wells Fargo & Co. and president-designate of Mondex USA, part of the global venture of which MasterCard is acquiring 51%.

Lisa Kops-Wendel, vice president of London-based Mondex International, will provide details of the system's Swindon, England, pilot and other research findings from around the world.

Michael J. Shade, vice president of Verifone Inc., Redwood City, Calif., will talk about the migration from magnetic stripes to chips on cards, with a retailer's perspective added by Fred J. Stephens, manager of technology for Shell Oil Co.

Visa U.S.A. vice president Diana Knox will join bankers from Wachovia Corp., NationsBank Corp., and First Union Corp., in a post mortem on the Visa Cash stored value card introduced at the Olympics in Atlanta.

Given that magnetically encoded cards are still the norm, Stephen Cole, president and CEO of the Cash Station network in Chicago will talk about the dangers of debit card fraud.

"It's the drum I've been beating for some time," said Mr. Cole. Though he is "not trying to discourage financial institutions from promoting" off- line debit cards, he said they must keep their "eyes open and put appropriate safeguards into place." He suggests measures similar to those used to control credit card fraud.

Friday morning a panel including representatives from Diebold, Intel, and Olivetti North America will discuss the future of automated banking machines, from cash dispensing to video conferencing.

Also on Friday, Anne Morgan Moore, president of Atlanta-based Synergistics Research Corp. will reveal findings of a study on home banking and the Internet, focusing on new access devices like WebTV.

Parties will abound, but one of the most distinctive has been planned by Action Systems, a Dallas-based consulting firm that hopes to make a splash this week with personal computer software to help retail bankers in data mining.

The company will hold a reception in one of the city's popular tourist spots, the Sixth Floor Museum in the former Texas School Book Depository, from which Lee Harvey Oswald fired the fateful shots at President John F. Kennedy - fateful, that is, according to believers in the single-bullet theory.

Action Systems marketing director Ann Cain said the museum is "one of Dallas' most intriguing places" and will give invitees a chance to "mix business with pleasure."

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