July 13, 2001

FleetBoston has jumped on the e-billing bandwagon, forming a strategic alliance and licensing agreement with edocs, a Natick, Mass. billpayments software company.

Beginning in the fall, credit card, loan and investment customers will be able to access and manage their monthly bills and statements at Fleet's online banking sites. In addition, the bank will now be able to offer corporate customers the ability to send customer statements and invoices and receive payment electronically.

The offering is part of Fleet's overall e-catalyst initiative, which has helped the bank jump start other e-commerce projects, said Ken Deveaux, senior vice president and director of B2B e-commerce group. "We took a corporate view of it and collectively we made a much stronger business case than any one business, either on the corporate side or the consumer side, could make by themselves. What we're really doing here is investing, so we can take the economies of scale between our internal billers, as well as our corporate billers."

To get there, Fleet has licensed edocs' ea Suite. Its four modules -ea Direct, ea Pay, ea Post and ea Market-provide a platform for online account management, enabling Web-based billing, customer self-service and targeted marketing.

Providing flexible Web payment options to customers can significantly decrease time to receive payments. ea Pay, for example, allows the lowest cost payment processor to be selected and gives customers a choice of payment types. An e-mail notification feature keeps customers informed and engaged, and helps reduce late and non-payments by providing payment reminders and notification of failed payments, shortening the time to receive payments.

Implementation will be handled jointly by edocs and Fleet.

Using its visual development environment to speed integration, edocs is currently helping Fleet integrate its legacy billing and accounting systems, customer care environment, and existing Web infrastructure. "There are a number of things that we could outsource, but it would be to our benefit to have a number of people who are part of our permanent staff that know it really well," said Deveaux.

Many of Fleet's corporate customers are chomping at the bit. "We're in active discussions with a number of them who would prefer to move sooner rather than later," Deveaux said. "We're certainly not going to hold them back."

Fleet will primarily host the service, with edocs working with customers on system capabilities and integration into existing statement or accounting systems.

Deveaux characterized the move as a fairly significant step, but said it's consistent with projects aimed at supporting customers. "I don't think Fleet has ever been categorized as being out on the bleeding edge, but we bear some responsibility to our customers to be thinking about how to offer these services and give them some alternatives," he said. "We have to accept the billing component of our customers' business is something that is important to them and we need to understand how they're doing it so we can offer some solutions as well."

http://www.banktech.com

2001 CMP Media LLC. 7/1/01, Issue # 3807, page 16.