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Citibank buys into MS online billing venture

MSFDC now renamed Transpoint, offering online payment systems

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Citibank has bought into the clumsily-named MSFDC(Microsoft and First Data Corporation) joint venture, now renamed TransPoint, to corner the market for Internet bill paying. The undisclosed stake is a minority one, with the other partners having an equal share. The service is expected to go live later this year. Some 19 billion bills are sent through the US mail each year, and TransPoint aims to offer an Internet service to billers as well as the billed, using existing technology. At present, home banking services of the many small US banks offer some bill paying capabilities, but efforts are not well-coordinated. Hitherto, Microsoft has been treated with extreme caution by the banking community, although this new move lends some credibility to the TransPoint venture. Hedging its bets, perhaps, Citibank also has a share of the Integrion Financial Network, a banking community consortium (with IBM) to keep banks in the banking business. Integrion works in association with CheckFree, a rival of TransPoint. Whatever the outcome, interworking of the two systems would seem to be a high priority. Netscape has provided Citibank with most of its Internet infrastructure software, and hosts Citibank as the "anchor tenant" (but not editorial writer) of Netscape's Personal Finance Channel. The irony is that although Citibank operates in 100 countries, it is only present physically in nine states and DC as a result of archaic US banking regulations. ®

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