Visa International has teamed up with a raft of so-called middleware providers to further its efforts in remote banking.

The partnerships are expected to help Visa build a banking communications conduit between banks and consumers.

The companies signing on to Visa's Vendor Partnership Program are: Applied Communications Inc., Braun, Simmons & Co., Deluxe Data Corp., Early, Cloud & Co., Tandem Computers Inc., and U.S. Order.

These companies will each contribute software and other products that provide links to Visa Interactive, the card association's remote banking arm, which was formerly a unit of U.S. Order.

Visa also hopes these vendors will help refine its evolving Electronic Banking Message Standard, which aims to establish a format for moving electronic banking information between consumers and financial institutions.

In signing up middleware vendors, Visa fills one of the last gaps in its soup-to-nuts remote banking package, said Brent Robinson, a senior vice president in charge of business development for Visa Interactive.

To date, 45 financial institutions have signed up to use Visa's remote banking and bill payment services, but these banks are only beginning to make Visa's services available to their customers. Many more institutions are expected to partake of Visa's services in coming years.

Ten banks have connected to Visa Interactive's touch-tone telephone service and another 10 should be up and running by next month, Mr. Robinson said. Visa will be offering its screen phone services by about July 1, and its PC-based options by this fall, he added.

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