SALISBURY, Md. - A recent study has found that 79 of the top 100 financial institutions in the United States will have installed personal computer networks in their branches by 1995.
The study by Salisbury-based Mentis Corp., found that 50 of the top 100 already support branch terminals with so-called client-server architecture, in which personal computers, midrange systems, and mainframes share processing that was once handled exclusively by mainframes.
The Mentis findings go hand in hand with a movement toward automating teller and platform stations with personal computers rather than with "dumb" terminals that rely on the host computer for processing.
More than three-quarters of all branch terminals installed in 1992 were personal computers, Mentis found.
"The ever-improving price/performance ratio of the personal computer is convincing a lot of institutions to make technology moves that they would not have made a few years ago," said Gregory Schmergel, a vice president with Tower Group, a consulting firm based in Dover, Mass.
While client-server computing is not entirely new to banking, experts said bankers have only recently begun to show a serious commitment to moving away from controller-based branch systems.
The most concrete evidence of this commitment is that in the top 100 banking companies, over 60% of those institutions that have moved to a client-server architect link all of their branch terminals to a server.
That percentage is expected to rise as institutions bring more terminals into the fold. By this time next year, the top 100 expect that 75% of their branch terminals will be connected to servers.
That number is expected to reach 90% by the end of 1995, according to the Mentis report, which was compiled from responses from over two-thirds of the top 100 U.S. banks.
In the population of banks outside the top 100, there are also indications that client-server computing is on the rise.
According to the American Bankers Association's 1992 National Retail Operations and Automation Survey, which queried 360 financial institutions, about 48% of banks with less that $1 billion of assets said they plan to connect platform terminals to client-server architectures in the next few years.
While most large financial institutions seem to agree that there are cost and operational benefits to be realized from distributing mainframe work to networked computers, there is no consensus on what computer operating system is best.
Microsoft Corp.'s MS/DOS, historically the favorite operating system for branch terminals at large banks, remains so through the client-server boom.
In the Mentis survey, 31% of the institutions responding indicated that their intelligent branch terminals ran this operating system.
IBM Gaining Ground
But there are indications that the lead in this area may soon change hands. International Business Machines Corp.'s OS/2, a relatively new operating system whose graphical capibilities make it attractive for branch terminals, has been gaining ground in recent years.
According to Mentis, about 19% of large banks have embraced OS/2 in their branches.
Likewise, many large institutions are also now using the Unix operating system, whose strength lies in its ability to allow hardware from different vendors to be easily linked together. About 13% of the top 100 use Unix for branch terminals.
The Mentis study also notes that Microsoft's Windows and NT operating systems are increasingly attractive as branch terminal operating systems.
In addition, about half of the banks reporting to Mentis indicated that Microsoft Windows is their standard for a graphical user interface.