Webster Financial Corp. of Waterbury, Conn., is entrusting management of its desktop computer network to an outsourcing company.

The contract went to Micros-to-Mainframes Inc. because of "its ability to provide a comprehensive maintenance and support program," said Roland P. Graziani, vice president of telecommunications at Webster Bank.

The agreement, valued at $3 million, calls for a Micros-to-Mainframes subsidiary, Data.Com Results, to provide network integration, maintenance, and support for two years.

Desktop outsourcing is a growing trend. The business in the United States is expected to grow from $2.7 billion last year to $8.1 billion in 2001, said Sherry Sumits, lead analyst of the operational services program at Input, a Mountain View, Calif.-based research firm.

Desktop services cover the deployment, maintenance, and connectivity of computer systems; it may also include equipment and services.

The current leader in this relatively new segment of outsourcing is Electronic Data Systems Corp., followed by the global services division of International Business Machines Corp., according to Input.

The $5 billion-asset Webster selected its service provider from outside that established club, but it has no qualms, Mr. Graziani said. He pointed out that Micros-to-Mainframes will not be supporting core banking applications.

Micros-to-Mainframes and its Data.Com subsidiary are not complete unknowns in the financial services industry. Banks make up about 25% of Micros-to-Mainframes' business, said Steven H. Rothman, president and chief executive officer of the Valley Cottage, N.Y., company.

Data.Com Results has done work for the former Shawmut National Corp. and its acquirer, Fleet Financial Group of Boston.

Micros-to-Mainframes sees its outsider status as an advantage. "We're not the manufacturers of technology, so we can use a multi-vendor alternative to solve somebody's problems," Mr. Rothman said.

Robert A. Fries, president of Data.Com Results, Rocky Hill, Conn., said that his firm and Webster share a common goal "to minimize downtime at the branch level."

Data.Com Results will help Webster integrate its most recent acquisition, DS Bancor, into the bank's computer system. The contract calls for six Data.Com Results employees to be stationed on-site. These employees can resolve any hardware or software problems related to the bank's network of personal computers.

Webster purchased DS Bancor, the holding company for Derby (Conn.) Savings Bank, in October. Data.Com Results will convert Derby's 17 branches to Webster's standard in February, Mr. Fries said.

By outsourcing, the bank can get access to new technologies that it might not otherwise be exposed to, Mr. Graziani said. "I don't have the personnel on board to go and do all the research," he added.

Another concern and cost for banks is keeping employees fluent in the latest technologies. This makes many companies wary of hiring a lot of information technology specialists, Mr. Rothman said.

Data.Com Results expects to work on other technology issues for Webster. The data communications and network integration company has already begun an electronic mail project, Mr. Fries said.

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