A unit of the world's largest technology vendor, Software AG of Germany, has announced that its core banking software is now generally available in the United States.

The year-old unit, BankWorks Inc., plans this week to demonstrate its client/server-based product for U.S. bankers at the American Bankers Association's Solutions '96 convention in San Antonio.

Several European banks run the software, and at least one U.S. bank - Texas' Laredo National Bancshares - is already using the mainframe version. A Unix version is also available.

William Bradway, a technology analyst with Tower Group, Wellesley, Mass., said BankWorks "can be a competitive player in the market they're targeting."

One factor that may help expand BankWorks' customer base is its plan, by 1997, to make its software available in Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT software environment, which is steadily gaining support in the banking industry.

Mr. Bradway added that the Atlanta-based company benefits from its ties to Software AG, which has deep pockets and international experience.

"On large platforms like mainframes, it makes sense to develop a system for the global marketplace, because it makes it easier to build your customer base and compete," he said.

Daniel Ryan, executive vice president at $1.5 billion-asset Laredo National, said although the software is unproven in the U.S. market, he is comfortable using it because of the experience of banks overseas.

"We had close dealings with the bank in Spain that the software was developed for, and actually bought the product from Software AG before BankWorks was formed," said Mr. Ryan.

"We see the bank almost as a partner with BankWorks in getting the software running in the U.S."

BankWorks said its software is designed mainly for institutions with between $500 million and $3 billion in assets.

These institutions typically are more willing than larger banks to invest in integrated core processing software, according to BankWorks president Edward J. Trapp.

He said systems used by large banks tend to have multiple deposit and loan applications and a separate data base that pulls customer information from these systems. By contrast, the BankWorks software integrates core functions and data base functions in a single system that is centered on customer records.

"'In more conventional systems, customers are defined as accounts and a customer information file links those accounts with other information," Mr. Trapp said. A bank using BankWorks' software would define customers as customers and attach all other information to this record, he said.

Mr. Ryan said his bank's search for improved use of customer information led to BankWorks' product.

"We're trying to get a focus on the customer, and the core processing system should reflect what we as a business are trying to do," he said. The new system will replace software from Kirchman Corp.

Another advantage of the BankWorks system, Mr. Ryan said, is its real- time transaction processing capability, which posts transactions as they happen, instead of in an overnight batch mode.

"The banking industry will need to move away from overnight processing as electronic banking applications become more widespread," said Mr. Ryan.

Ms. Tucker is a freelance writer based in Hazlet, N.J.

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