America Online (NYSE: AOL) announced today that it has bulked up its already-popular personal finance channel by signing a five-year agreement with Intuit (Nasdaq: INTU) to offer an online service for household billing.
Aimed at the small business and personal finance market, the service will be offered across multiple AOL brands by early next year, the companies said. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The companies said the new service will allow users to view, track and pay bills online, whether the bills are electronically issued or hard copies. The service, which will be powered by View and Pay Bills by Quicken, will allow billers who do not provide electronic billing to send paper bills to an Intuit address, where they will be scanned into electronic format. Companies will be charged a fee for the service.
The companies said the “two-track” approach of allowing electronic billing and hard copy billing differentiates the new service from existing competitors.
“Everyone has to pay bills, and this new offering will simplify the process by allowing members to receive and pay their bills from one location, and view their billing history to track expenses,” said AOL President Bob Pittman. “With its extensive experience in electronic finance and strong customer focus, Intuit is a great ally for us in this new service.”
Demand Is High
A just-released AOL/Roper Starch survey concluded that 55 percent of online consumers would like to pay their bills online. Jupiter Communications forecasts that the number of consumers doing so will leap from nearly two million today to 18 million by 2002.
With those kinds of numbers dangling like a carrot, it was widely perceived that it was only a matter of time before AOL expanded its personal finance offerings. Intuit, which was founded in 1983 as a small business and personal finance service, seemed to many to be a likely fit.
The first Quicken product rolled out in 1984, and added online banking and bill payment in 1995. Intuit booked 1999 fiscal year revenues of nearly $850 million (US$) and produced Internet-based revenue of $125 million.
AOL is getting bigger all the time, but has yet to show signs of corporate obesity and accompanying malaise. The Internet’s leading company announced first-quarter revenues of $1.5 billion, a record amount.
In fact, nearly every benchmark it established in the quarter — income, advertising levels, user increases — was a company record.