Following a trend among U.S. lenders, Comerica Bank has pushed its foreign exchange services out to the Web, launching eFX, an online FX dealing and booking system.
To use the service, clients log onto www.comerica.com, click on the eFX icon, and enter a transaction request that's routed to the bank's security staff. Comerica confirms the client's identity and issues a digital certificate; with the customer's password, this offers a double layer of security.
Previously, employees at Comerica-served businesses had to call the bank to arrange FX transactions, said Stanley Kucemba, senior vice president and manager of FX at $49 billion Comerica. Web-enabled service eliminates that step. It also allows people throughout a company to conduct FX transactions instead of restricting that function to a single department, as many corporations do.
Launched in July, eFX was developed by Detroit-based Comerica with the help of a technology partner, whom Kucemba declined to identify.
Businesses can perform spot and forward transactions, among other tasks, using eFX. The service provides real-time exchange rates, tracks payment and transaction histories and allows custom reporting. "It's a management tool for them," Kucemba said.
eFX does not, however, function as a multibank FX platform, such as Atriax, which bills itself as a complete electronic FX marketplace (see cover story, BS&T Sept. 2001). eFX offers only Comerica rates, without listing those of competitors. However, Comerica officials don't expect to lose business because of this.
"Our customers typically work primarily with us. There's no need for them to go elsewhere for bids because of longstanding relationships," said Wayne Mielke, a bank spokesman, adding that the bank's rates are competitive. "We're not transaction-oriented. We're relationship-oriented."
It's still too early to assess usage levels for eFX. "It's difficult to gauge," Kucemba said, noting that the service handles transactions ranging from one item to tens of thousands. Comerica deals with hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of FX business daily, not all of it via eFX.
However, the service should get a boost early next year, after Comerica completes its acquisition of Calif.-based Imperial Bancorp. The deal provides Comerica with a larger base of tech-savvy customers, Kucemba said.
eFX is part of Comerica's overall strategy to make services available through the Internet, spurred on by the trend toward an increasingly tech-savvy population.