Of all companies offering data bases to bankers, this one can boast of the most creative content.
The Art Loss Register, based in London, is an electronic data base of 75,000 stolen artworks - including some of the world's most famous paintings and sculptures.
Banks could use the data base to determine the legal owners if, say, a private banking customer wants to purchase a Renoir or an Archipenko sculpture is pledged as collateral for a loan.
The London-based registry's main reason for existence is helping to recover stolen artwork. In the last six years, it has played a role in reclaiming pieces worth $35 million.
But in recent months, it has begun looking for new users of the service, and some banks are listening to its pitch.
For example, Citicorp's private banking unit, which runs an art advisory service for its customers, uses the registry to determine whether a work of art a customer intends to acquire is valid.
"It's very important for an institution like (ours) to be able to source in one location this kind of data," said Kathy Bouckley, a vice president at the New York money-center.
Others also see value in the data base.
"I'd use it as another available resource to determine authenticity and validity" of artwork pledged as collateral, said Charles J. Bock Jr., director of fraud prevention and investigations at Chase Manhattan Corp. and a member of the American Bankers Association's antifraud task force. Chase has no specific plans to use the service.
Officials at the registry admit that their data base might not get the same daily use at banks as, say, a bond index. But they said some could find it useful.
For example, an institution with a lien on a particular piece of artwork likely would want to know if the piece is being offered at auction. The data base has helped uncover such incidents in the past.
"Although I don't think it's something that occurs on a huge scale, banks quite definitely do take in these things from time to time," said James B. Emson, managing director of the Art Loss Register.
The registry's main customers are insurance firms and law enforcement agencies.
Though Mr. Emson did not identify any banks other than Citicorp as users of his data base, he said several that viewed a recent presentation on the registry expressed interest.