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Banks to offer service over internet

May 06, 1999|By LAURA ERNDE

Hagerstown area bank customers will soon be able to make bank transactions over the Internet around the clock, bank executives said Thursday.

"I don't think it's a question of 'should we.' I think it's a matter of when," said Faye E. Cannon, chief executive officer of F&M Bancorp in Frederick, Md., the parent company of Home Federal Savings Bank in Hagerstown.

Cannon and the CEOs of eight other regional banks were attending a banking seminar at Fountainhead Country Club.

When stockbroker John R. Hershey III asked the room full of 300 banking investors who had used the Internet, a majority raised their hands.

When Hershey asked the same question at a previous banking seminar in October 1997, he got only a paltry show of hands.

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In addition to becoming more familiar with the Internet, people are building confidence in the security of online transactions, said Hershey, who hosted the seminar as Hagerstown branch manager of the Baltimore-based Ferris Baker Watts.

FCNB Corp. of Frederick, Md., already offers online banking. As an incentive, the bank is offering a $25 bonus to customers after they pay their first six bills online, according to information on their World Wide Web site.

Banks view the Internet as a way to reach out to their customers and maintain a good relationship, said William B. Grant, CEO of First United Corp. of Oakland, Md.

Columbia Bancorp was one of the first 200 banks to have its own Web page, said John M. Bond Jr., CEO of the Columbia, Md.-based bank.

Customers can fill out applications online and online transactions won't be far away, he said.

Banks also are using technology to find out how profitable their customers are to them, the executives said.

But the regional banks aren't as sophisticated as some of the larger banks, said Rufus A. Fulton Jr., CEO of Fulton Financial of Lancaster, Pa., the parent company of Hagerstown Trust.

When you call a large bank to complain about a fee, a computer will tell the customer service representative how important you are to the bank's bottom line. If you aren't a big customer, don't count on getting the fee waived, Fulton said.

Hershey said he hosted the seminar to give local investors a chance to meet the CEOs, who gave financial profiles about their bank's past and future.

Fulton said he bypasses investment seminars on Wall Street in favor of the Hagerstown seminar because that's where he can reach most of his investors.

"They're Main Street America investors," he said.

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