Wells Fargo & Co. and American Express Co. have revealed their choices for electronic bill presentment software, underscoring the importance financial institutions are attaching to billing retail customers over the Internet.

Wells, the seventh-largest banking company, chose the latest version of BillCast software from Just In Time Solutions Inc. of San Francisco to send electronic bills from its own, internal businesses. Just In Time announced Wells' decision Monday, several days after American Express said it had licensed software from edocs Inc. of Wayland, Mass. American Express also took a minority stake in edocs, for an undisclosed sum.

Praising Just In Time's support for open standards, Scott Peterson, senior vice president of Wells' wholesale Internet services group, said BillCast "enables us to use the electronic bill as a basis for developing a deeper relationship with our customers."

Wells is testing the software at its Norwest Mortgage Inc. subsidiary and plans to expand the tests to its credit card and student loan businesses.

American Express will use edocs software to deliver "enhanced and expanded" on-line billing and statement services to customers worldwide, said Larry Kutscher, senior vice president of interactive enterprise development at the New York-based company. American Express already sends bills on-line to its small-business and individual cardmembers in the United States, using an in-house system.

Wells and Amex are high-visibility coups for Just In Time and edocs, which are working to further establish themselves with major banks and billers.

About 1.2 million American Express customers already check accounts on-line, and the company has 22.5 million basic card relationships in the United States and about 34.2 million around the world -- a sizable potential audience for electronic bills.

Wells' Norwest Mortgage unit sends out about 2.4 million bills a month. The banking company's student lending business, which is to begin sending electronic bills next spring, mails out 95,000 monthly statements and expects that total to grow quickly.

Wells, with $205 billion of assets, is an especially coveted customer because of its involvement in Spectrum, an electronic bill presentment joint venture it started in June with Chase Manhattan Corp. and First Union Corp. Spectrum is intended to be an Internet "switch" for routing bills from the three companies' corporate customers to on-line retail customers. Other banking companies have been invited to become members of Spectrum.

Just In Time also announced Monday that the 2.0 version of its software is available, adding to bill presentment and distribution integrated customer-care functions and a component that interfaces with a variety of payment systems.

Avivah Litan, research director at GartnerGroup in Stamford, Conn., said the added functions will enable BillCast 2.0 to "appeal to a wider set of biller customers."

Another Just In Time client, Bank of America Corp., is offering electronic billing services to corporate customers using the software. The server relies on the OFX, or Open Financial Exchange, standard to foster interoperability. Both Wells and Just In Time have been proponents of the standard.

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