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Integrion gets financial boost

Citibank and First Union join 17 other financial institutions that partnered with IBM a year ago to drive online banking and commerce with the launch of Integrion.

    Electronic commerce venture Integrion Financial Network has gained a financial boost from Citibank and First Union, which have bought stakes in the bank consortium.

    The amount of the investments by the banks, two of the largest in the country, was not disclosed. Citibank and First Union join 17 other financial institutions that partnered with IBM a year ago this month to drive online banking and commerce with the launch of Integrion.

    Integrion uses the IBM Global Network infrastructure to offer a range of electronic commerce services to consumers.

    The Integrion structure gives banks a way to build online services for their customers, under the bank's brand name, without going through a software company such as Microsoft, or Intuit, or another intermediary. It also is designed to give Integrion a voice in developing e-commerce standards.

    The investment by Citibank and First Union follows Integrion's acquisition of Visa Interactive in August, a transaction that added more than 60 financial institutions to the company's financial base.

    Although Integrion's acquisition of Visa Interactive unified the bank-oriented camp, it did nothing to resolve the continuing conflict between financial institutions and the software companies that banks fear are trying to steal their customers.

    Analysts said the Citibank and First Union investment marks the beginning of the balance shift towards Integrion from the software company group.

    "This tips the scales a bit. The critical mass is on that side of the line for Integrion. It's shaping up to be a very widespread platform to carry out financial transactions," said Scott Smith, a senior analyst with Current Analysis.