Magazine article American Banker

PC Banking Glitches Persist at NationsBank

Magazine article American Banker

PC Banking Glitches Persist at NationsBank

Article excerpt

A year after NationsBank Corp. introduced banking by personal computer, the program still faces technical and operational problems.

Bill payments are sometimes completed late, and the bank is having trouble dealing with an unexpectedly high volume of transactions and requests for technical support.

NationsBank executives said the program is a victim of its own success and vowed to resolve the problems quickly. People in home banking programs at other institutions said they are learning from NationsBank's experience.

Since March 1, 1996, when the Charlotte, N.C., institution introduced PC banking through Managing Your Money software, the response far exceeded expectations.

The service has attracted 320,000 customers-one of the biggest home banking enrollments in the industry-even though it has been available nationally only since December.

But the good news ends there.

The bank's support staff has proven far too small to handle the volume of orders, inquiries, transactions, and technical questions, bank officials said. Additional workers are being trained and added, but customer questions and complaints continue to flow in.

"We have had to throttle back, reduce some of the advertising, do some other things that would just allow us to suppress demand temporarily," said Richard J. Parsons, president of NationsBank's direct banking unit.

The company's archrival sees the experience as a cautionary tale.

"We want to take it slow," said John R. Georgius, vice chairman of First Union Corp., which plans to introduce a PC banking program next month. "We're trying to pace ourselves."

NationsBank is one of six owners of Meca Software LP, the Stamford, Conn., company that makes Managing Your Money. Two other Meca owners-Fleet Financial Group and BankAmerica Corp.-have rolled out similar, "own- branded" home banking programs based on the software.

"Based on what we learned from NationsBank and B of A, we have a series of contingency plans for a variety of different enrollment volumes," said David Fingerman, vice president of interactive banking at Fleet. "They advised us that if there was one thing to pay attention to when you're rolling out a PC banking program, it's customer service support."

Senior NationsBank executives consider their PC program a great success but admit they have taken some lumps.

"It was difficult to experience 100% growth over 60 days," said Janey A. Place, executive vice president of NationsBanc Services Inc. …

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