Companies ally to bring banking technology to cable television

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Four major companies have forged an alliance that will let cable subscribers get their daily dose of sitcom laughs as well as perform their banking transactions via the television.

Intuit Inc., Mountain View, CA, a financial software and Web services company, will provide the technology for performing the transactions. BankAmerica Corp., San Francisco, the nation's third-largest bank holding company, will bring its financial services capabilities to the deal. @Home Network, Redwood City, CA, will provide the online service. Tele-Communications Inc. (TCI), Englewood, CO, a cable and telecommunications company, will be the service's backbone.

Using the new technology, consumers will be able to check their account balances and transfer money between accounts at participating financial institutions; electronically receive, review and pay bills; manage investments; shop and apply for mortgages, consumer loans and insurance; prepare and file taxes; and access other financial services provided through Bank of America or other financial institutions.

Currently, consumers must use a personal computer to access these kinds of banking services from home either through the Internet or software installed on their PC.

The services are expected to be available through advanced digital set-top devices provided to TCI customers beginning in 1999. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

"Cable television delivery promises to revolutionize the way consumers access their financial services and pay for purchases -- right off their television sets," said David A. Coulter, chairman and CEO of BankAmerica Corp., which announced plans earlier this month to merge with NationsBank. "As we rapidly approach the new millennium, this new venture will provide millions of consumers -- regardless of their financial services provider -- with what we believe will be the ultimate in convenience and choice."

The move from analog- to digital-based transmission systems is bringing a variety of new ways for people to be entertained and at the same time creating new methods for commerce, according to Alpa Shah, industry manager of multimedia at Frost and Sullivan, Mountain View, CA, a marketing consulting company.

"The banking industry will certainly benefit from customers being able to perform transactions over the television," Shah said. "While it will take some time for this to become commonplace, more banking customers will have access to online banking."

Shah estimated that the majority of analog television sets will not be replaced with digital sets until well past 2004.

But direct response demand for banking products shows no sign of letting up by then. Direct response sales for banking are expected to skyrocket from $30 billion in 1997 to more than $100 billion in 2006, according to the 1997 Economic Impact Study conducted by the WEFA Group for the Direct Marketing Association.

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