A veteran bank technology expert has started a venture to sell advanced community banking software that takes advantage of lower-cost computers running the Unix operating system.

With backing from a cadre of community banks, and a leading computer hardware vendor, Bahram Yusefzadeh's new company, Phoenix International Ltd. of Altamonte Springs, Fla., plans to deliver its first product by early next year.

Six community bank holding companies with a total of 26 banks have provided more than $1 million of capital to Phoenix, taken an ownership stake in the vendor, and plan to use the company's software to manage their core operations.

More Banks Lined Up

Mr. Yusefzadah (pronounced You-SEF-zah-dah) said he expects 14 more banks to join the others soon. bringing in more than another million dollars of capital and giving the banks a total ownership stake of 40%.

Hewlett-Packard Co. of Palo Alto, Calif., has agreed to give Phoenix seed money, technical assistance, and free computers in return for a comarketing agreement that for three years requires Phoenix to sell only software in the United States and Canada that runs on Hewlett-Packard computers.

Outside North America, the software can run on any platform.

"We really liked the Phoenix concept," said Peter Mullen, a marketing director for Hewlett-Packard in Cupertino, Calif.

"We see this making a pretty big splash in the small and medium-size banking market in the U.S., and we are actively working on several international opportunities with them as well," he said.

The technologies that Phoenix plans to incorporate in its Phoenix Banking System include so-called client-server computing, in which Unix-based host computers share processing with smaller personal computers.

In this case, the Phoenix Banking System is being designed to run on Hewlett-Packard midrange computers, with close links to personal computers with the Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system.

The Hewlett-Packard computers are considered "open systems" because Unix can run on a number of different manufacturers' hardware.

The Phoenix Banking System will also use relational data base management technology, which has advantages for analyzing information, and "object oriented" programming languages that streamline systems development.

Added Elegance

Phoenix officials believe these technologies will make their software more elegant and useful for community banks than the software now available from other vendors, much of which was written one or two decades ago and runs on mainframe and midrange computers from International Business Machines Corp., AT&T's NCR Corp., and Unisys Corp.

One of the bank holding companies that has agreed to team with Phoenix is First Citizens Financial Corp., of Charles City, Iowa, which owns four community banks in Iowa, and one in Minnesota, with a total of $425 million of assets.

"Having some confidence in what Bahram is doing, and knowing him, I decided to move ahead with his concept," said O.J. Tomson, First Citizen's chairman.

Mr. Tomson is also Phoenix's first chairman, and a former president of the Independent Bankers Association of America.

Longtime Association

Mr. Tomson said he first met Mr. Yusefzadeh 20 years ago, when Mr. Yusefzadeh founded a bank software company that was later acquired by bank software vendor Broadway & Seymour of Charlotte, N.C.

Mr. Tomson said four of his five banks now use the software that Mr. Yusefzadeh originally designed, which runs on an IBM midrange computer.

Rather than buy the new IBM computer needed for a software upgrade, First Citizens hopes to use a much less expensive Hewlett-Packard computer, and get advanced software to boot.

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