If on-line banking takes off as expected, women users are likely to be the driving force, according to a report from NetSmart Research.

The New York consulting company based its conclusion on phone interviews with 500 women who spend at least an hour a week on-line.

Two years ago, women made up only about 22% of the on-line community, NetSmart said, but now they are 42%, roughly 10 million women.

As more women go on-line, an increasing number are using on-line financial services, such as computer-based banking, trading, and personal financial management.

This year 36% of the women surveyed said they regularly use on-line financial services, up from 16% in 1995.

The findings are the latest evidence that women should no longer be written out of marketing plans that once focused justifiably on men.

"We discovered in our survey that women pay 70% of all monthly household bills," said Bernadette Tracy, president of NetSmart.

She added that 64% of women said they would be willing to bank on-line when security issues are resolved. Fourteen percent said they currently bank or trade stocks on-line.

In the NetSmart survey, 54% of women had bought something on-line. Eighty-four percent of them paid by credit card. And 41% of that group said they were concerned about security.

"Convenience wins out because the concerns are hypothetical, not experiential," said Ms. Tracy, a motivational psychologist whose experience in banking research includes doing a study for Citicorp about consumer opinions of automated teller machines.

She said women have a time problem, with 64% in the survey working and 56% having children. Convenience was cited by 91% as the reason they use the Internet.

"Men see it as a toy; women see it as a tool," said Ms. Tracy. "The Internet has become the newest time-saving household appliance."

The report showed 47% of women use Web sites to find new products; 58% to find recipes on-line; and 47% to discover house-cleaning shortcuts. Further, 58% use Web sites to shop when stores are closed.

Ms. Tracy said Web-based investment and mortgage services are "important in the female sector, as working women are joint partners in financial decisions. In addition to being the bill-payers, they are also the information-gatherers."

"The difference between men and women is that men focus on transactions and women want relationships to enhance the experience," she added. This information should lead banks to make their sites more personal and interactive.

"A bank's home page has got to be the beginning of the relationship and so, should welcome people," Ms. Tracy said.

"Bank sites are product-driven now but should be more need-driven," she said, noting that 86% of women ranked ease of navigation as more important than content on Web sites. Seventy-three percent said they had left a Web site out of frustration.

The most popular banking activity with the women surveyed was checking balances on-line.

Though offering this service does not generate revenue for most banks, it can help reduce costs and attract and keep customers.

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