to become one of the most advanced "remote banks" in the country. Star announced the availability last week of "a fully integrated customer service and banking convenience package." Customer service channels include voice-activated phone services, screen phones, personal computers, automated teller machines, and video kiosks. The PC offerings will include services delivered via the Internet. Officials of Cincinnati-based Star, which has $9.7 billion of assets and 250 branches, said the project will cost more than $10 million. But because Star is working with several technology-providing partners, it expects to spend only about $1.2 million. That's about what it would spend to build a conventional branch, said Richard K. Davis, executive vice president and head of consumer banking. He said the bank was reluctant to buy someone else's electronic banking package, because it was concerned about maintaining a strong brand identity and retaining a central role in its relationship with customers. "We led the deal," Mr. Davis said. "We never allowed anyone to usurp our position." Still, he added, Star has not ruled out working within a consortium to provide services to its customers through Intuit Inc.'s Quicken or Microsoft Corp.'s Money. Star Banc identified these partners on its project: Visa Interactive, CFI Proservices Inc., Fujitsu-ICL Systems Inc., AT&T Global Information Solutions Inc., Syntellect Inc., and Applied Communications Inc. Fraser Bullock, president of Visa Interactive, praised the bank's aggressive tack. "A lot of banks are just dabbling in this," he said. "They went all the way." Mr. Bullock said Star Banc skipped some of the more conventional payment processing stepping-stones and opted for Visa's advanced electronic payment system. The Star initiative aims to let customers use their personal computers to pay bills electronically, get account information, transfer funds, and do some more sophisticated financial analysis. There will also be expanded ATM services: mini or full statement printing, check reorders, postage stamp purchases, and image printouts of canceled checks. Screen-enhanced telephones would allow customers to pay bills and make credit card purchases, and freestanding video kiosks would enable them to inquire about bank services and get information on other products, such as cars, that could generate loan business. Meanwhile, to reach people over the Internet, the bank has opened a home page on the World Wide Web. "While some other banks may have components similar to those included in our system, we are the first bank in the country to fully integrate all the elements of 24-Hour Remote Banking into one usable package," said Jerry A. Grundhofer, Star's chairman, president and chief executive.
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