Transpoint LLC appears to be modifying its strategy for distributing electronic bills to banks, according to an electronic payments analyst.

The joint venture of Microsoft Corp., First Data Corp., and Citigroup Inc. recently said it would be four to six months before it completes interfaces linking corporate billers' electronic billing data to financial institutions' Internet banking software, according to Avivah Litan of GartnerGroup in Stamford, Conn.

The wait means that banks planning to provide on-line bills via Transpoint in coming months will have to link customers directly to Transpoint's Web site, something many bankers would prefer to avoid, Ms. Litan wrote in a recent research report.

William A. Soward, vice president of business development at the on-line banking software vendor Edify Corp., confirmed the delay and said it had affected at least one of Edify's customers.

Banks and other consumer service providers are awaiting the missing interfaces so that they can give customers a single place to log in for all financial applications, said the report, "Transpoint's Shifting Distribution Strategy -- Delayed or Deliberate?"

Still, the delay may prove worthwhile if it marks a transition to a new bill-distribution model, the report said.

Ms. Litan speculated that the wait buys time for Transpoint to roll out electronic bill distribution based on what is called a post office model. Banks and other service providers would send messages using XML, or eXtensible Markup Language, to retrieve the bill data from Transpoint's distribution service.

"This is good news for banks and CSPs (consumer service providers), as it modernizes the bill distribution network and stimulates healthy competition," Ms. Litan wrote.

Lewis Levin, Transpoint's president and chief executive officer, denied that there was such a delay. He also said the company was making no strategic shift and added that Transpoint currently offers two methods of linking banks and their customers to Transpoint bills. One allows banks to send customers to Transpoint's site without requiring separate log-ons and is being piloted at KeyCorp of Cleveland. The other uses the 2.0 version of the Open Financial Exchange, or OFX, protocol for transmitting bill data.

"Deployment is active, it's live, and it's in place," Mr. Levin said.

Mr. Soward said Transpoint's lateness in providing banks with an interface has caused Edify to shift its development priorities. "We're shifting our attention to Checkfree and Spectrum, because they are ready to go now."

Checkfree Holdings Corp., based in Norcross, Ga., is presenting bills at a slew of bank and brokerage Web sites. Spectrum, an electronic bill presentment joint venture launched this year by Chase Manhattan Corp., First Union Corp., and Wells Fargo & Co., plans to have a service on the market by yearend.

Transpoint presents electronic bills at its own Web site and at Microsoft Corp.'s MoneyCentral personal finance site. It expects to have three or four banks presenting bills by mid-2000, Mr. Levin said.

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