- The Washington Times - Monday, July 30, 2001

A Utah banking company has ventured into the Washington technology market with its recent purchases of two local businesses.
Zions Bancorp. of Salt Lake City bought ThinkXML of Rockville and E-Lock Technologies of Fairfax earlier this month.
"We're really looking to bring all these companies [together] to create a pre-eminent [electronic document] solution company," says Dan Buchanan, the Zions executive vice president of electronic commerce who orchestrated the deal.
ThinkXML software transfers documents into electronic forms. But the company's specialty is processing information obtained through forms.
The ability of E-Lock software to assign electronic signatures to these forms will give Zions a legally binding document.
The acquisitions will allow the banking company's customers to complete entire transactions online instead of having to fill out forms online, print them out and mail them.
"What these acquisitions create is in essence an end-to-end solution," says David Winton, an analyst for Keefe Bruyette & Woods Inc. who covers the company. "The ability to create an electronic document, sign it with an electronic signature, and be able to store it electronically."
ThinkXML and E-Lock will work under IcomXpress of Nashua, N.H., another e-commerce firm bought by Zions this summer.
The services will be incorporated into IcomXpress' core business: providing workflow and electronic process management solutions to government, financial services and health care industries.
"This really positions ourselves to move to a market leadership position quickly," says IcomXpress Chief Executive Don Byrne.
Others are not so sure the technology, especially digital signatures, will take off.
"The jury is still out whether digital signatures will catch on in the financial services division," says Rosalind Looby, an analyst for Credit Suisse First Boston who follows Zions. "But it seems to be a step in the right direction."
Zions operates more than 400 banks in nine Western states. It also has electronic-commerce, investment, mortgage and insurance services.
The company's stock has been trading between $64 and $40 over the past year. It closed Friday at $58.49 on Nasdaq, up 9 cents.
Net income fell 20 percent last year to $161.7 million ($1.86 per diluted share) from $194.1 million ($2.26). Deposits grew 7 percent to $15 billion from $14 billion in 1999.
Diluted shares reflect the value of options, warrants and other securities convertible into common stock.
For the second quarter ended June 30, profits rose 23 percent to $73.6 million a year earlier. Deposits climbed 18 percent to $17.2 billion from $14.5 billion.
Finances had not been so bright for ThinkXML. The company had burned through its first round of funding by November $3 million from Draper Atlantic of Reston. And few were interested in the second round earlier this year.
"We had to go raise money for each paycheck … I was known as the minimum-wage CEO," says ThinkXML Chief Executive Bill Goss. "We ran this company from 50-some people to the 20s."
The future for Mr. Goss looks much brighter at Zions.
"A company that should have been closed down when it ran out of money in February has become a key offering in their e-sign initiative," Mr. Goss says.
E-Lock hasn't had to rely on venture capital.
Founded in 1998 as a subsidiary of Frontier Technologies of Mequon, Wis., E-Lock is privately funded by Prakash Ambegaonkar, the financier of Frontier and a former associate professor at the Milwaukee School of Engineering.
"We expect great things in this market the need for electronic signatures," says Craig Bond, president of E-Lock. "We are being positioned to take it on."
This isn't Zions' first expedition into Internet technology.
One of its subsidiaries Digital Signature Trust Co. of Salt Lake City became the first licensed certificate authority for Internet identity credentials in 1997.

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