First Tennessee National Corp. will offer a wide range of services next year when it and a BellSouth unit test-market home banking. Consumers will be provided with computerized telephones.
The test will be one of the first in which home banking will be coupled with advanced telephone services.
Experts say that such a combination key to the success of screen phones, a new type of device with electronic displays to help consumers obtain information services.
|A Really Good Opportunity'
"We see this As a really good opportunity to meet the consumer demand for convenience," said Susan Terry, the vice president who is leading the test for First Tennessee.
First Tennessee is teaming with BellSouth Telecommunications Inc.. a unit of Atlanta-based BellSouth Corp., in the test, which is scheduled to run from April through August.
First Tennessee will give the phones to 500 bank customers in the Nashville area who will use the phones free of charge to check account balances, move funds. pay, bills, buy from catalogs, and obtain a wide range of advanced telephone services.
One such service is caller identification, in which the caller's name and number are displayed on the telephone's screen so people can see who is calling before they pick up.
Ms. Terry said the phone company will hand out screen phones from three vendors - US Order Inc., a Herndon, Va.-based unit of Worldcorp.; Northern Telecom Ltd. of Mississauga, Ontario; and National Semiconductor Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif., - to determine which phone consumers prefer.
US Order also will process home shopping and bill payment transactions for the test.
Ms. Terry said that following the test, First Tennessee expects to make the home banking service available across the state.
"Our feeling now is that we'll go ahead, although we want to measure the research [results] very closely," she said.
Citicorp, Huntington Bancshares Inc., and MNC Financial Corp. are among the handful of institutions that have either tested or delivered home banking through screen phones.
Similar Test at Barnett
But thus far, only Barnett Banks Inc. has tested a service in which consumers access both home banking and advanced telephone services from screen phones. And the Jacksonville, Fla.-based company's test, launched in June, involved fewer than 100 households.
Over time, experts expect screen phones will be able to access more combinations of banking, advanced telephone, and other services.
"I don't think home banking by itself will support screen phones," said Michael Grisham, a computerized-telephone expert in New York.
Variety Needed to Justify Cost
Mr. Grisham, who left American Telephone and Telegraph Co. in February after developing a screen phone AT&T canned earlier this year, said that for the device's cost to be justified, consumers must be offered access to a wide range of services.
Prices for screen phones now on the market vary from less than $100 to more than $300. Becky Barnett, who holds the title of innovation manager for BellSouth Telecommunications, said the company is targeting its development efforts at screen phones that cost about $140.
"Unless you're using the phone for five to seven different things, its not really a part of your life," Mr. Grisham said.
Banks Seen Benefiting Most
He added that research sponsored by AT&T indicated that banks stand to benefit more from screen phones than any other type of company that could sell services through the devices.
He said the research concluded that banks could bring in an additional $80 to $95 per year from each customer that uses a screen phone. Most of the added income would result from consolidation of accounts customers had at other banks.
Telephone companies could benefit nearly as much as banks.
Mr. Grisham said the research indicated that local phone companies could bring in $60 to $80 per year of incremental income from each customer who uses a screen phone, mostly because the phones would help the telephone companies sell advanced services and boost calling traffic.