U.S. Bancorp of Portland. Ore., is close to buying a major package of banking software that Electronic Data Systems Corp. developed with Banc One Corp. and Norwest Corp., according to industry sources.

The software, called the Strategic Banking System, has beer seven years in the making at a cost of more than $100 million. A contract with a superregional like U.S. Bancorp, not a member of the development group, would be viewed as a breakthrough.

Installation of the large-scale system would be likely to cost U.S. Bancorp $25 million to $50 million, industry experts said.

Emphasis on Cross-Selling

Banking technologists have been watching Strategic Banking System closely, because it has been touted as a major advance in the software that enables banks to track their customer relationships and measure profitability.

The system is described as "integrated," meaning it can provide a complete picture of all customer relationships.

"There is a heavy emphasis [in the software] on marketing support and cross-sell capabilities that had not been considered in older-vintage retail banking systems," said Lawrence A. Willis, a principal with First Manhattan Consulting Co.

Such integrated systems are viewed as essential for banks that are growing and consolidating through acquisition.

Like Banc One and Norwest, the $21 billion-asset U.S. Bancorp is on the acquisition trail. This fall, its California bank purchased 20 offices from Security Pacific Corp. and BankAmerica Corp. in the wake of their merger. The Oregon-based bank is also the 21st-largest credit card processor in the country.

Validation for EDS

Consummation of U.S. Bancorp's contract for the Strategic Banking System would validate the efforts of Dallas-based EDS, which bore the lion's share of the development costs and hopes to recoup its investment by marketing the system to other banks.

A spokeswoman said U.S. Bancorp is "evaluating the customer information system" - the core piece of the software - but has not signed a contract.

A number of banks and software firms tried through the 1980s to build a comprehensive retail banking system that would incorporate vast quantities of data about customers, but no one put all the pieces together.

The cornerstone of the EDS program is a customer information file that has been installed at both Norwest and Banc One.

But the new software, which runs mainly on International Business Machines Corp. mainframe computers, is still in a rollout phase and has not yet been fully proven.

A related deposit system is currently being tested at several Banc One branches. There are plans to roll out the system to all branches in 1993.

Other firms said to have discussed the system with EDS are some of the big British clearing banks, including Barclays , and BankAmerica Corp., which has followed up on an evaluation of the system by Security Pacific Corp. before that institution was acquired, sources said.

Retail System Overhaul

U.S. Bancorp's subsidiary in Beaverton, Ore., put an image processing project on hold this fall, pending a bank-wide overhaul of its retail systems. The unit, U.S. Bank, was in the process of installing a document imaging system for credit card applications, teller work, customer correspondence, and internal computer reports generated by mainframe.

U.S. Bancorp runs its own data processing operation, but has a relatively small contract with EDS to process accounts for a bank program targeted at upscale customers, according to an EDS official.

"By acquiring an application like SBS, you then have access to the full capabilities of EDS to bring in the storm troopers when an acquisition is made, to get the conversion done in the shortest period of time possible," Mr. Willis said.

Matt Barthel contributed to this report.

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