One of video banking's earliest and most vocal proponents is returning to action after a brief absence.
Richard J. D'Agostino, who previously headed a now-defunct maker of banking kiosks designed for shopping malls, has resurfaced to promote an interactive terminal that could let consumers do video banking from their homes.
Mr. D'Agostino, whose new company is called Megacom Inc., said he holds seven patents and has applied for an eighth on the boxlike device that he says can play the role of both a television set and personal computer.
In addition to normal cable television and PC Internet capabilities, the device could bring people face to face with bankers through video conferencing.
A customer who wanted to talk about account balances - or order shoes from an on-line catalogue - could summon a bank or company representative using a remote control, Mr. D'Agostino said.
For several months, he has been promoting a $3.5 million private placement for Megacom, which is based in Charlotte, N.C.
He is touting his experience as president of PFA Financial Centers Inc. and Aegis Technologies Inc., which installed video conferencing kiosks in malls for banks like CoreStates Financial Corp., BankAmerica Corp., and Banc One Corp.
PFA and Aegis were sold to New York Life Insurance Co., which tried unsuccessfully to sell the units and later closed them.
Mr. D'Agostino's plan is to lease the all-in-one, home-based devices to consumers through telephone companies for $25 a month. By contrast, he said, the kiosks he sold to banks cost $40,000 each.
Tony Plath, director of the University of North Carolina's Center for Banking Studies, sits on Megacom's board of directors and calls the company's proposed product "PFA to go."
"It's an interesting technology," he said. "The real key is, can you build critical mass? Can you build customer base?"
Mr. D'Agostino said the main problem the old kiosks faced was getting people comfortable with doing sophisticated banking transactions - such as applying for loans - in a public environment.
The new Megacom terminals would address that uneasiness, he said, by letting consumers videobank from their own homes.