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The bank will use Microsoft's Biztalk Server 2000 to allow its business clients to check the credit rating and payment performance of potential customers and partners securely, within minutes. The service, called Firstcheck, is Lloyds TSB's first Web services application.
Neil Ward-Dutton, an analyst at Ovum, said, "It is quite a trailblazing move as Microsoft claims only 800 users worldwide. It is also quite surprising that Lloyds TSB jumped onto .net so early. Banks tend to be quicker at responding to technology advances in the front-office rather than the back-office and Biztalk Server 2000 is definitely part of the strategic infrastructure."
Lloyds TSB is one of the largest early adopters of technology from the .net product suite - Microsoft's vision of software as a service piped over the Web. Other big name customers include retailers Sainsbury's and Marks & Spencer.
"We see Web services changing the way that Lloyds TSB Commercial Finance does business," said Martin Walmsley, e-business development manager at Lloyds TSB Commercial Finance. "Not only are we able to give our customers real-time credit references, we are also lowering our costs for these credit checks."
Lloyds TSB Commercial Finance previously processed all credit references and checks by telephone or fax.
"It is possible to do the same with, say, Tibco or Webmethods software as with the XML-based Biztalk Server, but it is like Mercedes versus Ford - the latter is ready packaged and cheaper," explained Ward-Dutton.
Under the new system clients enter a credit query online. The request is then delivered via Internet data standard XML to the Biztalk server, which passes the query on to a SQL server.
This server searches a database of client credit information and returns the answer to the client almost instantaneously using XML.