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[NEWS] Some crypto-relevant wire clippings for a change


CheckFree Corporation announced an agreement to acquire Intuit Services
Corporation (ISC) for 12.6 million shares of common stock in CheckFree
Corporation. Intuit Services Corporation is a wholly owned subsidiary of
Intuit Inc. Based on the September 13 closing price of 18 1/16 for
CheckFree stock, the indicated price CheckFree is paying for ISC is $227
million. After completion of the acquisition, CheckFree will provide
home banking and bill payme nt services to over 180 financial
institutions. The acquisition will bring CheckFree's base of home
banking and bill payment users to over one million. CheckFree
Corporation markets its electronic commerce processing capabilities
exclusively to financial institutions, which, in turn, use them to
provide home banking and bill payment services to their customers.
CheckFree's approach is behind the scenes: providing banking and bill
payment transaction processing.

-- PR Newswire, 9/16/96

French Bank Note Printer Buying U.S. Card Maker


Francois-Charles Oberthur Group of France, the third-largest bank note
printer in the world, has agreed to purchase Kirk Plastic Co., the
second- largest card manufacturer in the United States.

The deal, announced last week, follows the sale of other North American
plastic card producers to European companies over the last two years.

Gemplus bought a U.S. manufacturing base from DataCard Corp., and
competitor Schlumberger acquired Malco Plastics. Giesecke & Devrient of
Germany bought Security Card Systems of Canada, and De La Rue of Great
Britain bought McCorquodale.

Los Angeles-based Kirk Plastic had announced a joint venture with Orga
Card Systems Inc., a German smart card company, in July 1995, but those
negotiations were terminated several months ago.

Kirk R. Hyde, president of Kirk Plastic, a 77-year-old family-owned
business, said Oberthur made a better partner. Mr. Hyde, 53, will sign a
three-year employment contract with Oberthur, also a family business,
which is 70%-owned by Jean-Pierre Savare. Kirk Plastic will keep its
name and 2,500 employees.

Mr. Hyde said he'd had reservations about selling his company, but "if
we don't make the deal, we could be out of business in five years if
smart cards take over."

He said his competitors were purchased by large European concerns driven
by smart cards and technological changes. "I could no longer keep up
with investments to remain competitive," he added.

The new owner will infuse capital and technology, and add distribution
channels. Mr. Hyde would not disclose specific terms of the deal, which
is scheduled to close within 30 days. Industry observers see the
European invasion as concrete evidence that smart cards are gaining
ground in the United States.

"It's another indication that many companies are betting millions that
the U.S. market will develop very quickly," said Dan Cunningham, senior
vice president of business development at Phoenix Planning and
Evaluation Ltd., a Rockville, Md.-based consulting firm.

Mr. Cunningham headed Gemplus' U.S. subsidiary before it acquired the
DataCard manufacturing facilities.

In Atlanta, Visa is testing Visa Cash, the stored-value smart card
system launched in conjunction with the Olympic Games.

By early next year, Visa will join with MasterCard, Citibank, and Chase
Manhattan Bank in a potentially crucial "interoperability" test on
Manhattan's Upper West Side.

In other signs of U.S. progress in the smart card industry: Wells Fargo
and Co. and AT&T Universal Card Services became owners of Mondex
International, the company formed by National Westminster Group of
London; several universities are implementing smart card systems on
campuses in conjunction with banks; and U S West rolled out card-reading
phones in several western states.

Even so, smart cards are not producing income here. Mr. Cunningham said
acquisitions of profitable companies like Kirk can generate funding for
early smart card development.

Kirk Plastic, with annual revenues of more than $25 million, said it
will produce 125 million magnetic stripe cards this year.

Oberthur, an international producer of lottery tickets and plastic cards
in addition to bank notes, participates in a joint venture, CP8
Oberthur, which is one-third owned by Bull Group of France, another top
smart card producer with U.S. facilities.

CP8 Oberthur produces 50 million smart cards annually in two French
factories, supplying nearly 70% of French bank cards.

Oberthur's U.S. subsidiary, Banknote Corporation of America, is the
second-largest security printer in the United States.

ComputerWorld: August 26, 1996

Opening Soon: Microsoft National Bank

If Bill Gates can persuade the Justice Department to go easy on
Microsoft's monopoly in PC operating systems, just imagine how easily he
could persuade regulatory agencies to grant him a bank charter. Give up
a few tons of documents, hold several meetings that consist of silly
bureaucratic bantering and voila! he's got an $ 18 billion de novo bank
with millions of online "branches" overnight. And not a trowel of mortar

Why speculate about the notion of a Microsoft bank? Because Gates is an
impatient man. He doesn't believe bankers are moving fast enough to make
home banking a success. The entrepreneurial instinct of such a highly
successful person suggests that if conventional approaches don't work,
he will bypass them and take over. Gates is a helluva marketer and
promoter; he could sell the concept with pizzazz.

There's also a bit more to this proposition than meets the eye. A recent
phone call from Microsoft's lead person in the home-banking fray
revealed some interesting insights. First, the only reason this
well-informed and well-connected gentleman called me is that he knows
how I feel about home banking it's a solution searching for a problem. I
think he's trying to swing me

(and at least one other highly visible skeptic) over to his camp.

Second, the executive said, home banking has to be sold aggressively by
banks. He figures consumers aren't likely to rush in and sign up. He's
absolutely correct about the absence of a rush.

The part about having to sell online banking aggressively to consumers
worries me. If that's the case, then home banking is a cat that has
already used up eight lives in the past 25 years. Every major bank has
tried home banking and has failed. If the last chance depends on the
typical banker's sales skills, then home banking is dead for sure.

Consumers are smarter than ever. Give them good reasons to switch, and
they don't have to be pushed.

Home banking doesn't yet provide compelling reasons.

Today's consumers are in love with the checkbook. They aren't
complaining about checks. (Banks, of course, hate checks because they're
expensive to process.) Consumers don't want to expose their spending
habits on the Internet,either. They just aren't ready to say, "I think
I'll jump on the Internet today and pay my bills."

The promoters of home banking point to surveys that show the increasing

penetration of PCs in U.S. households. But that doesn't mean those PCs
will be used for online banking. If a poll said 80% of U.S. homeowners
have a back yard, does it mean they all want to plant tomatoes? Even
banking's technocrats don't do online banking when they go home.

If compelling reasons to bank from home are missing, then the next best
chance for success will depend on a cultural shift.

Maybe the future yuppies, who are now in grade school, will embrace home
banking just because it fits in to their electronic lifestyles. The
"Gomwatms" grumpy old men with all the money will eventually fade out of
the picture.

Home banking is a sure thing, once we find its right decade.

By M. Arthur Gillis; Gillis is president of Computer Based Solutions,
Inc., a banking technology consultancy in Dallas. His Internet address
is [email protected]

Financial Times:Thursday, August 29, 1996

Online Shopping Plan Claims Better Security

Uunet Pipex on the Internet not only met widespread concerns about
security but was more secure than buying by phone or in a shop with a
credit or debit card.

The company, the UK subsidiary of MFS, the US telecoms operator bought
earlier this week by WorldCom of the US and one of the largest European
Internet service providers, believes its system is in advance of US

The British system is backed by National Westminster Bank, which will
act as the clearing house for online debits and credit card
transactions. Uunet Pipex said the system, called "The Bureau", will
enable customers to buy goods from electronic "shops" on the Internet in
safety and with security.

Merchants trading on the Internet will be able to take advantage of an
established payments mechanism without the cost of building their own.

Shopping over the Internet has been possible for some time but its
popularity has been held back by concerns over security. Potential
customers are reluctant to trust the Net with their credit card
information. Nevertheless, online electronic commerce is believed to be
worth $300m ({GBP193m) annually at present and rising.

Among the organisations seeking to develop secure shopping and payments
systems are card companies Visa, Mastercard and American Express and
software developers Microsoft, Netscape Communications and Verifone.
Internet merchants sign up with Uunet Pipex and pay 5 per cent of the
purchase value per transaction.

The system is activated when a customer presses the "buy" key and enters
his or her credit information. It is then stored securely by Uunet who
instructs NatWest to pay the merchant for the purchase. When the deal is
complete electronic confirmations are generated for customer and

Mr Richard Nuttall, Uunet Pipex director of electronic commerce, said:
"Until now, security concerns have deterred buyers and sellers from
doing business over the Net. We have created a comparatively low cost
system that is more secure than buying goods on an ordinary credit or
debit card."

Four merchants have already signed up to use the system. Responsibility
for establishing an electronic shop on the Net remains with the
merchant. Many believe the quality of the images of goods for sale is a
more effective deterrent to Internet commerce than fears over payment

The principle advantage of "The Bureau" over competitive systems seems
to be the ease and low cost of adoption. Mr Susen Sarkar of the London
technology consultancy, Ovum, said: "The launch of The Bureau will
remove anxieties for both merchants and consumers." Other UK groups,
notably Barclays Bank, already offer Internet shopping services and
British Telecommunications is testing a large-scale online shopping

American Banker: Thursday, August 29, 1996

On-Line Banks Unsure About What Kind of Web to Weave


Most banks want to do more with their Web sites, but aren't exactly sure
what, according to a survey of banks that have presences on the

Netmarquee Online Services Inc., a Needham, Mass., company that offers
on-line information for family businesses, conducted the survey this

Of 150 banks in the survey, 65% wanted to enhance their content so that
people would visit the Web sites more often.

"A good number of these banks put Web sites up nine months or a year
ago, and they're saying, 'Now what?'," said David Gumpert, president of

"They're coming to realize that they need to do something more than an
electronic brochure, to provide some kind of value added to their
prospects and customers besides just saying, 'Aren't we great?'"

Mr. Gumpert's survey, conducted by telephone, found that traffic ranged
from 100 to 500 visits a month. Only 5% of banks surveyed said they were
actively promoting or advertising their Web sites.

The survey also found that the larger the bank, the more interested it
was in using the Internet for business purposes.

Banks now are devising a variety of ways to draw repeat traffic to their
sites, including trivia quizzes and mortgage calculators.

Mr. Gumpert's company sells packages of information relevant to small
businesses, and he is trying to coax banks to subscribe to his
information service, which provides monthly updates. One bank that is
considering a subscription to Netmarquee's product is Bank of Boston

Ray Graber, marketing manager for the Web site, said the bank is looking
at ways to provide interactive features, like on-line account
applications or account transfer capabilities.

Mr. Graber said the bank is also considering a service called "Rentnet"
that lists apartment rentals on the Internet and might prove helpful to
the many college students in the Boston area.

Financial Post (Canada): Tuesday, August 27, 1996

Smart Cards Don't Have All the Answers-- Yet


In Mission Impossible, Tom Cruise's latest film, the fearless Ethan Hunt
breaks into the CIA computer room, disarming a technological stronghold
by punching in numerical codes and submitting his eyes for a retina

While most viewers see such high-tech wizardry as fantastic, some of the
gadgets may not be far from reality. Researchers worldwide are
experimenting with technology that would allow not only security
barriers but also electronic payment systems to use the retina, the
handprint or even a facial expression as an identification method.

"We are moving into the electronic age where money will just be
information about the wealth you have," says Hans van der Velde,
president of the European Union region of Visa International. Some
companies believe that parts of the body, rather than paper or coins,
can be used to establish the amount of money somebody has available to

For the time being, however, most participants in the payment industry
believe the best alternative to cash remains the humble, but universal,
plastic card.

An increasing number of payment card organizations are replacing the
magnetic strip -- the present industry standard -- with a tiny computer
microchip that enables cards to be used not only to carry out financial
transactions, but also to store data about the card's owner.

A chip-based card is much more difficult to counterfeit than the
magnetic stripe card and can carry details of a cardholder's insurance
policies, medical history or driver's licence. It can be used to manage
a retailer's loyalty program and even be used as a key for house or car.

Above all, as a plethora of experiments demonstrates, it can be used as
an "electronic wallet" storing value instead of petty cash. Pilot
programs from the U.S. to Australia are testing the capabilities of
these cards.

In Britain, the most advanced trial is being conducted by Mondex,
originally backed by National Westminster Bank and Midland Bank, and now
owned by 17 banks. During the past year, Mondex has invited customers to
use the cards in Swindon, where they can pay for small items like
newspapers or chocolate bars without coins or notes.

The cards are loaded up with value debited from the customer's bank
account at automated teller machines or on "smart" telephones. Retailers
can then take funds off the card without having to authorize each
transaction online.

While Mondex is in a race with other global payment organizations to
develop and market its version of the electronic wallet on a global
basis, several regional projects are harnessing the smart-card
technology for a number of payment applications.

Transcard, operated in western Sydney by Card Technologies Australia,
combines an electronic bus pass with a re-loadable cash card that clocks
up loyalty bonus points for buying McDonald's hamburgers or entry to the
local swimming pool. In France, customers can pay for taxi rides,
newspapers and phone calls with virtually ubiquitous smart cards.

Sponsors of these projects are enthusiastic about the early results.
"The technology works. That's probably more of a shock to people than
anything else," says Beth Horowitz, MasterCard's vice-president for chip
card business in Australia.

Live testing has resolved some questions. Almost everyone now agrees
that the electronic wallet must be reloadable, not a disposable
fixed-value card that has been used for telephone cards or in Visa's
Atlanta pilot.

But for those who wish to exploit the global market -- worth an
estimated US$ 4.3 trillion -- for card payments, there are some issues
that remain unresolved.

One is standards, an issue that plagues all new technological
innovations, from the Internet to videocasette tapes. Although Europay,
MasterCard and Visa, the largest global retail payments organizations,
have developed international standards for chip cards, some systems --
notably Mondex -- do not comply. "The issue of standards has complicated
the market for 15 years," says Gerald Hawkins, manager of card services
at Lloyd's TSB in Britain. "It is one of the reasons why Mondex, while
clearly a very advanced development, has taken a bit of a knock."

The idea of a standard is that it would guarantee interoperability among
systems, because retailers will want multiple terminals to accept
different cards.

Mondex argues that the market, rather than standards, will determine
which cards will operate in point-of-sale terminals. It says that a
number of these terminal suppliers have already demonstrated that
interoperable equipment can be made to accept Mondex and all other
magnetic stripe and chip cards.

In fact, the EMV standards themselves have been criticized because they
stick to "contact" technology, in which the chip must come into physical
contact with a reader inside a slot. For high-volume applications in
places such as railways or buses, contactless technology, in which a
card contains a small radio transmitter or a stripe that can be read
with a quick swipe, are considered more appropriate.

"A contact smart card in a mass transit environment is just too slow,"
says John Hall, general manager for retail banking services for the
Credit Union Services Corp. of Australia. The biggest problem of all,
however, is ensuring the smart card makes financial sense.

"The reason for all these projects is that no one has proven the
business case. I'll be really interested to see if anyone makes money
out of this," says Eugene Lockhart, president and chief executive of
MasterCard International. The business case for the smart card has
receded because telecommunications charges that once made online
verification expensive are now coming down, and with them fraud rates.

"Ten years ago you could justify the wallet on the basis that it would
cut costs," says Peter Hirsch, managing director of consultants Retail
Banking Research. "But now telecommunication costs are coming down and
the business case is getting weaker. The chip is too expensive to give
short-term returns."

But at about US$ 14 apiece, a smart electronic wallet -- though more
expensive than a magnetic stripe card -- is not completely devoid of
financial advantages.

Cash, which the wallet would partly displace, is expensive. The
Association of Payment Clearing Services in London estimates that
handling cash costs the British financial services industry about US$
4.24 billion a year. For banks, the wallet could offer the chance to
undo some of their past mistakes. In Australia, for example, the banks
have pressed cards so far that they are being used for much lower value
purchases than banks would like.

"We don't think much of paying 20 cents to process a 95 cents
transaction at McDonald's," says Hall of the Australian credit unions.

For merchants, the replacement of cash means the elimination of
considerable hassle. "If you take cash, you have to take it home, count
it, put it into a night safe and then pay it into the bank the next
day," says Richard Jackson, manager of Victoria News in Swindon, which
accepts the Mondex card.

But many retailers are likely to resist paying for the "privilege" of
accepting the wallets. "Of course, there will be tough negotiations
between individual banks and retailers," says Ron Clark, chief executive
of Mondex in Britain. "We had this battle over Switch [the British debit
card brand] with retailers who said they wanted us to provide it for
free. But over time they have paid for it because it is a business

Consumers, on the other hand, may prove much more difficult to convince
that an electronic wallet is worth paying for when they can get cash for

But Transcard charges US$ 7.82 a card, and says customers gladly pay it
because the cost is covered within two weeks by the free bus rides they
earn through a loyalty bonus scheme.

"We have categorically proved that the consumer will pay," said David
MacSmith, managing director of Card Technologies Australia.

But it still may be difficult to persuade consumers to abandon cash
altogether. "We are going to have a migration period of at least 10
years," said Lockhart of MasterCard. It will take even longer for more
technologically advanced developments like the retina scan to move out
of the film world into the marketplace.

Richard Tyson-Davies, director-general of Apacs said: "The card is one
of the most standardized items in the world. It is tremendously accepted
and recognized so it would be a very bold person who threw that away."


<a href="mailto:[email protected]">Dr.Dimitri Vulis KOTM</a>
Brighton Beach Boardwalk BBS, Forest Hills, N.Y.: +1-718-261-2013, 14.4Kbps