ImageCenter A Bankable App For Financial Centers

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Given today's constrained IT budgets, wouldn't it be nice if you could help a customer generate some extra revenue for, say, the cost of a CD burner?

That's exactly what one solution provider was able to do for Bank of the Cascades, a Bend-based community bank looking to move away from the traditional preparation of paper bank statements and manual return of canceled checks.

It helped that the solution provider, Birmingham, Ala.-based MBBWare, had already spent the past three years setting the bank up with a document imaging system backed by an up-to-date storage solution that offered plenty of room for future expansion.

MBBWare, which does business as BankWare, is a full-fledged solution provider with a hardware and network practice to complement its ImageCenter banking application.

BankWare focuses exclusively on the nation's 10,000 community banks, said Pat Koster, the solution provider's marketing director. "Half of those community banks have implemented check imaging," Koster said. "The other half still use microfilm to store, retrieve and process checks. It's a very manual process."

Bank of the Cascades installed its first check imaging solution in 1994 to reduce the amount of work needed to manually process canceled checks, said Marie Applegate, senior vice president and IS manager of the bank. The DOS-based solution, however, which stored the images on 72 Gbytes' worth of 12-inch optical discs, needed upgrading in 1999. Of the three proposals the bank received, BankWare's combination of software and hardware offered the most complete solution, Applegate said.

In January 2001, the bank switched over to BankWare's ImageCenter application for its imaging needs.

BankWare not only implemented ImageCenter but also integrated Dell servers with server-attached RAID for primary storage, Koster said. It also deployed a Pioneer DVD jukebox with a maximum capacity of 3.3 Tbytes for archiving data from scanned checks.

ImageCenter provides Bank of the Cascades with a wide range of capabilities, including the ability to balance transactions, encode all checks that leave the bank, archive check images, automatically develop bank statements and include check images when users are notified of a bounced check, Koster said.

Bank of the Cascades processes more than 50,000 checks each day, all of which had to be stored before ImageCenter was deployed. Now they can be destroyed after 60 or 90 days, Koster said.

The cost of returning canceled checks was also reduced, Applegate said. "Most banks can cost-justify not returning checks in terms of postage savings alone," she said.

ImageCenter also left a lot of room for value-added services, Koster said, and in the past six to nine months BankWare has added the ability to scan in documents such as mortgage applications, new account applications and signature cards.

"When you have a physical piece of paper, only one person can look at it [at once]," Koster said. "When it's an image, multiple people can look at it at the same time and can say, 'Yes, we can approve, or no, we can't.' The savings can be significant."

So where does that revenue-generating CD burner come in? The addition of one such product from Pioneer enabled the bank to burn check and monthly statement images to a CD-ROM and include a browser and search function, said Applegate.

The bank charges consumer customers $25 for a CD-ROM containing one year's worth of images. Business customers are charged $25 for a month's worth. The cost to the bank is only $1.40 for such a CD-ROM vs. 52 cents for a five-page paper statement or $1.07 for a 15-page statement, Applegate said.

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