The Banking Industry Technology Secretariat is about to put its positions on paper for the first time.
The secretariat, an offshoot of the Bankers Roundtable, is issuing a small book that begins to spell out how it will go about its mission of preserving bankers' influence over electronic payment systems.
The "Statement of Principles on Banking and Technology" will be on policymakers' and opinion leaders' desks no later than next week, Bankers Roundtable executive director Tony Cluff said during American Banker's Banking in Cyberspace conference.
It will be the first such document to come out of the Washington-based Roundtable since it established the secretariat, known by its acronym Bits, two months ago. Backed by the Roundtable's membership of big-bank chairmen, chief executive officers, and chief operating officers, Bits wants to orchestrate "collaborative action" in what it deems banks' and their customers' best interests.
The initiative arose out of concerns that the industry was not keeping up with technological changes and the implications of offerings from Microsoft Corp., Intuit Inc., and other nonbanks. Aside from enjoying the support of the top officers of the 125 biggest banking companies - the Roundtable's members - Bits gained endorsements from the American Bankers Association and Independent Bankers Association of America.
While the secretariat could end up setting standards and issuing an "acceptance mark" to services that meet its approval, the initial "Statement of Principles" mainly sets a framework for discussion, Mr. Cluff said.
He said it will "build confidence" with legislators, regulators, and industry constituencies, underscoring that bankers have resolved "not to outsource their future (in a way that is) not good for them and their customers."
"The document basically says we are aware of the issues that revolve around fair treatment of customers, how privacy should be protected, the fact that systems have to be safe and secure on the customers' behalf," Mr. Cluff said in an interview. "We haven't filled in all the blanks yet. We are putting our best foot forward, telling Congress and the administration we are aware of these matters."
Mr. Cluff also said all but one of Bits' 12 board seats are spoken for. From the Bankers Roundtable membership will come top officers of BankAmerica Corp., Bank of Boston Corp., Banc One Corp., Chase Manhattan Corp., First Security Corp., First Union Corp., Huntington Bancshares, NationsBank Corp., Norwest Corp., and one to be announced.
The IBAA and ABA each appoint one. The ABA's will be its past president, James Culberson.
Speaking to the American Banker gathering, John Rippey, the Bankers Roundtable official who is acting CEO of Bits, said his members want to "reverse the (technology) information flow" from systems vendors to banks.
"We want bankers to think through the issues and tell the third-party providers what the industry thinks should be done," he said. "It's not that the third parties are enemies; we just want to have a different kind of discussion."
He served notice that Bits will insist on more "coherence" among such entities as MasterCard and Visa, automated teller machine networks, the National Automated Clearing House Association, Financial Services Technology Consortium, and Electronic Check Clearing House Organization.
And he expressed hope that Bits will promote more competition in the personal finance software field currently dominated by Intuit, Microsoft, and Meca Software Inc.