The software lets companies initiate financial electronic data interchange transactions with their banks over the World Wide Web.
The new Vector:Connexion for the Internet software, now shipping, seeks to build on financial institutions' current infrastructure for EDI, a forms-based system for transactions sent directly from computer to computer without human intervention.
Using the Internet for EDI is generally cheaper than using secure private networks called value-added networks (VANs). The new product aims to offer the benefits of electronic commerce without the expense and time to set up a traditional financial EDI program.
"This is step 1, providing financial EDI over the Internet. Step 2 is to make it an electronic payment product so you can send not just EDI payments but all kinds of payments," said Mark Havlik, Sterling Commerce director of marketing. A total Web-based cash management system would be the next step, using the Internet for companies to connect to their banks.
Competition is heating up in the Internet banking space. A French company, CosmosBay, today announced new Internet banking software for the U.S. market. (See related story)
Edify, Security First Network Bank, BroadVision, and Integrion (a joint venture of IBM, Visa, and 17 major North American banks) also have offerings.
Sterling Commerce's current product lets small and mid-sized companies, the target market, initiate financial EDI vendor payments and receive online remittances over the Net using only a Web browser and a form they pull down from their banks' Web sites. Banks can use their existing financial EDI systems, staff, and processes while adding new users.
With Vector:Connexion for the Internet, payments are automatically and electronically acknowledged by the bank, and customers can receive remittance confirmation electronically using bank-branded electronic forms and a Web browser.
By mid-1998, Sterling Commerce will add capabilities so bank customers can initiate payroll, federal and state tax payments, book transfers, child support payments, and check payments.
The software, sold to financial institutions, costs $60,000 to $90,000 depending on the number of users.