Visa International is developing home banking software that targets consumers needing only the most basic of electronic banking services.
This as-yet-unnamed offering would enable consumers to pay bills, track checking and savings accounts, and transfer funds using their personal computers.
The limited transaction set is designed to play off of the bevy of more elaborate products that provide more complex services, such as long-range financial planning and stock analysis.
Visa hopes the simplified product will appeal to the vast majority of PC owners who do not currently use computers to manage their bank accounts.
Visa Interactive the company's electronic commerce unit - plans to make the basic personal finance software available to consumers through banks by June.
The package will complement a more elaborate product that Visa is developing with Block Financial Corp. for June release.
"For some people, all this fancy stuff is O.K.," according to Fraser Bullock, the president and chief operating officer of Visa Interactive. "But ours is just a simple banking, Windows-driven product."
Most of the existing personal finance software, Mr. Bullock maintained, provides as many as 10 major features - only one of them being basic banking.
Visa's new product, he said, is a pared-down software that does not include all these bells and whistles.
Mr. Bullock sees a market for such a product in the very sizable group of consumers who use their personal computers only for word processing or for games.
"This appeals to a high end of capable users," Mr. Bullock said. "There is a hole in the market-place that needs to be filled."
Visa has signed on more than 30 banks to offer both its basic software and the product being developed with Block Financial, which is based on Block's popular Managing Your Money product.
Financial institutions will market these products to their customers directly, and both software packages will prominently feature the name and logo of the specific bank.
NationsBank Corp. has already signed on to provide the Visa-Block Financial software to its customers.
The bank is negotiating to offer the more basic Visa product to its customers as well.
According to Chuck Hi-eronymi, senior vice president in charge of marketing for NationsBank, only 20% of all personal computer owners use their computers to manage their money.
"If a simplified alternative will help us penetrate that market, I think we need to do that," he said.
NationsBank, like many of its competitors in this market, has not committed itself to any one vendor, alliance partner, or delivery medium. Bank officials have been in talks with "all the major players" in home banking, Mr. Hieronymi said.
NationsBank has been offering its own PC-based banking option - which includes functions such as bill payment and stop payments - to its customers in Texas since 1988.
Although he would not disclose the number of customers using this service, Mr. Hieronymi said that it had seen a twenty-fold increase users in the past six months.
This would seem to under-score the rapidly rising consumer interest in such products and services - especially ones that fulfill the most basic banking functions.
Both Visa and NationsBank are involved in screen phone-based home banking projects as well. And Mr. Bullock and Mr. Hieronymi agree that customers in the future will be able to choose from a wide variety of different media and levels of sophistication in home banking.
"There won't be just one software package - a consumer will be able to pick and choose," Mr. Hieronymi said.
"And there is the potential to have consumers who only want to do bill payment, along with ones who want a more comprehensive solution."