Excuses like ?the cheque's in the post? or ?what telephone bill?? may be rendered useless if Citibank sets the trend in online billing.
The US bank has snapped up a minority stake in Transpoint, the online billing venture created by Microsoft and credit card processor First Data.
Transpoint, formerly known as MSFDC, offers presentment - receiving bills electronically - and payment services online. As part of the deal, Citibank will offer the service to its customers via the Web or its PC based banking service. Customers will be able to view and pay bills for a range of services including electricity, telephone, cable and credit cards. Transpoint is developing its own billing site for non-Citibank customers.
The bank will also incorporate the Transpoint service into its e-Citi electronic commerce product line. Internet billing is core to its ambitious online banking strategy, which aims to reach one billion customers by 2010. The bank is building ecommerce products based on Netscape software and it already occupies prime anchor position on the financial section of Netscape?s Netcenter portal site.
Citibank?s endorsement of Transpoint gives credence to Microsoft?s foray into the online billing market - a move treated with scepticism by banks that fear the software giant is trying to invade their territory.
Analyst Scott Smith of Current Analysis believes the involvement of a bank with such a market position, and a reputation for technological astuteness, will make other financial institutions more comfortable with Transpoint.
The electronic presentment market has been valued at $1.5 billion, according to analysts. But just how this market will develop is uncertain. Banks, utilities and billing service companies all want some form of Web site ownership and an online relationship with their customers. But whether consumers are prepared to visit many sites to pay bills, or choose one consolidator of bills, remains to be seen.
In addition to an equity stake in the venture, Citibank gains a seat on the Transpoint board, while Microsoft and First Data each retain equal majority stakes.
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