A new study of business on the Internet addresses challenges facing prospective cyberbankers and attempts to unravel the electronic marketplace issues that befuddle them.
The soon-to-be-released study, created by the consulting firm Killen & Associates, sheds some light on the complicated issues surrounding the movement of consumer financial services to computer networks.
Dubbed "Internet: When It Comes to Making Money," the study combines the comments of industry executives with research data gathered by Killen's consultants about the fundamentals of Internet-based payment systems.
Among the topics in the study: the growth of the varied forms of on-line payments - check, credit card, debit card, and electronic cash; security measures to detect and stop transaction fraud; the technology banks need to engage in cyberbanking; the uncommonly quick life cycle of electronic commerce products and services; how to design an electronic distribution system; and how on-line networks will evolve over time.
Earlier this year, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based firm released a hotly discussed study on the potential dominance of Microsoft Corp. in electronic financial services. Its authors estimated that the software behemoth had the wherewithal to earn upward of $2.2 billion annually in this business alone by the year 2000.
This latest work delves into broader issues about the market itself and provides some reference points and general information.
Michael Killen, the firm's president, said he was looking to create "the most extensive and comprehensive package of insights ever assembled to help banks develop strategies for offering electronic payments and making profits in cyberspace."
The study includes commentary from only two bankers: Daniel Schutzer, a vice president for corporate technology at Citicorp and chairman of the Financial Services Technology Consortium, and G. Mack Hicks, a vice president in charge of senior systems engineering for BankAmerica Corp.
"Electronic commerce is missing a couple of key things from my viewpoint," Mr. Schutzer said, adding that despite the array of options springing up, "none of them are really secure" or completely interoperable.
"It would be a shame if people got confused and turned off (to electronic commerce)," he added.
According to Mr. Killen, the idea was to expose bankers to the breadth and depth of viewpoints and information about the emerging electronic marketplace outside their own environment.
"We deliberately did not put banks in there," Mr. Killen said. "We don't know of many that have their acts together in terms of the Internet."
The first half of the study is made up of comments from 20 Internet- savvy individuals from many walks of life, including payment systems experts, systems engineers, business consultants, lawyers, and software developers.
Bankers may recognize at least one of the participants: William Melton, the founder and president of Cybercash Inc., a company developing secure payment software for the Internet. Mr. Melton helped found Verifone Inc., which makes point of sale terminals.
A snippet of the commentary from Mr. Melton: "Buying goods and services electronically is not a new idea. The electronic data inter-exchange boom, sometimes called EDI, of the 1980s, introduced the concept of electronic purchasing to corporate America, but it really largely failed to reach the consumer. In hindsight, the reasons are obvious. Only the technically savvy had access to personal computers through their work or home computers."
The research portion of the study, which will be released June 29, is 160 pages long and costs $3,500. The videos that provide the commentary cost $2,000. When bought together, the pair cost $5,000.
Right now, Mr. Killen sees banks as a ripe and eager market for this research.
"Six months ago, banks did not care about technology," Mr. Killen said. "Now they're all trying to acquire knowledge about the technology, the Internet especially."