The vendors of the leading personal finance software packages vied for the allegiance of bankers last week - to informative and sometimes amusing ends.

The participants - representing Intuit Inc., Meca Software Inc., and Microsoft Corp. - were in harmony on one point: They want to be banks' partners rather than competitors.

But their styles and tones differed significantly during a rigidly timed, debate-like confrontation early one morning at the Bank Administration Institute's retail delivery systems conference.

Intuit's personal products group vice president, Eric Dunn, had the bearing of a market leader. He portrayed the company's best-selling Quicken software as a financial institution's best option because of its market reach and upscale user demographics. Mr. Dunn pointed out that Quicken's customer base of eight million is more than double the combined user bases of Meca's Managing Your Money and Microsoft's Money.

Paul Harrison, president of Meca, split his time between self-promotion and attacks on Intuit's claim of being the banks' best friend.

Mr. Harrison emphasized that Meca is owned by a consortium of banks, led by BankAmerica Corp. and NationsBank Corp., and thus will be most attentive to industry concerns.

He also showed a video depicting a fictional couple installing a copy of Quicken distributed by their bank. After some confusing moments in which the couple cannot figure out who sent the software - their bank's name did not appear on the package - the pair install Quicken and promptly move their account to Citibank because it is listed by the program as a lower- cost provider of electronic services.

Richard Bray, Microsoft Money product manager, eschewed talking about competitors and instead reinforced pledges earlier in the conference by chairman Bill Gates that Microsoft is out to help bank partners.

Mr. Bray ran over his allotted time, prompting a mid-sentence cutoff of his microphone. As he shouted a closing line to the audience, one banker said, chuckling, "He ain't our good friend yet."

In the question-and-answer period that followed, bankers heard still more pledges of cooperation from all three players. In the area of transaction processing options, both Microsoft and Meca promised to support banks' ability to choose processors, while Intuit said only that it would strive to be an efficient provider of processing services.

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