There is “unprecedented opportunity” for Atlanta companies that join with Japanese counterparts to offer Internet financial services in Japan, according to Brian Fultz, general manager and representative director for the Japan division of iXL Inc., an international Internet consulting company headquartered in Atlanta.

Mr. Fultz spoke at a luncheon co-sponsored by the Japan America Society of Georgia and the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), at Georgia Tech’s Georgia Center for Advanced Telecommunications Technology (GCATT) last week.

Although traditionally it has been hard for U.S. firms to break into Japan, he said, Japanese companies are now “more than delighted to partner with U.S. companies, including those that offer Internet financial services such as brokerage firms.”

“The Japanese recognize there is a skill gap and a credibility gap for them where technology is concerned and that presents a great opportunity for U.S. companies that have been successful here to joint venture with Japanese companies.”

Joint ventures are also successful, he added, in part, because consumers like to do business with proven U.S. companies but interact with local people who speak their language.

In addition, Mr. Fultz said there is much demand for businesses doing what iXL does.

“We are the only company in Japan offering full-service strategic Internet consulting,” he said. “There are big opportunities there.”

Furthermore, Mr. Fultz related that while E-commerce activity in Japan is two to four years behind the U.S., that will not last. Japan catching up with the U.S. in buying over the Internet, he said, depends on consumers gaining confidence in the economy and being educated about computers.

The Web site for iXL Inc. is