Seeking to bridge a technology gap between old and new branch automation systems, a small North Carolina company has introduced networking software that links Windows-based PCs to older retail banking hardware.

The company, Nexus Software Inc., based in Raleigh, announced the new software, called WOSA Resource Manager, at the Bank Administration Institute's Retail Delivery Systems Conference in Phoenix last month.

The software is designed to allow bank employees using PCs running Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system to connect to a type of branch automation system from International Business Machines Corp. called the IBM 4700. The 4700 system consists of a "controller" that links branch workstations, printers, and other banking devices to a financial institution's IBM mainframe.

The 4700 system, which has been in service since the early 1980s, was at that time on the leading edge of putting computer technology into branches in order to speed transaction processing and customer service.

In those early days, teller and platform workers mostly used so-called 'dumb terminals' that had no computing power of their own.

But today, those dumb terminals in branches are being rapidly replaced with PCs that can display graphics and run their own software applications.

And while many banks are replacing controller-based branch systems with PC networks, IBM officials say about 800,000 branch workstations in U.S. banks are still linked via the 4700.

That's precisely the market Nexus is aiming for with its Windows-based software, company officials said. "The future of branch automation is moving in the direction of the rest of the (banking) industry," said Philip Lippard, Nexus' chief executive officer.

"That path is pointed towards PC-based (networks). However, the reality of branch automation lies in the substantial investment in 4700 systems already in place."

The WOSA Resource Manager - the acronym stands for Windows Open Services Architecture - as aimed at banks that are taking an evolutionary approach to revamping their branches, said Stephen R. Lund, business development manager at Nexus.

"A lot of banks want to put Windows applications on the platform, but they want to keep the 4700 terminals at the teller line," Mr. Lund said, adding that the new software allows Windows users to access core banking applications through the 4700 controller.

The software also lets users access 4700 passbook and statement printers, bank card readers, and personal identification number keypads.

Mr. Lund says his company - which has installed branch networking systems for PCs running the older DOS operating system at a number of U.S. banks - is close to its first sale of its WOSA software to a Australian financial institution that he declined to name.

Nexus is also negotiating with a number branch software vendors, including AT&T Global Information Solutions Corp. and Unisys Corp., to integrate the WOSA software into their offerings, Mr. Lund said.

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