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National Check Exchange Debuts

NEW YORK-SVPCO Check Services, the check processing business of The Clearing House Payments Co., plans to open its national check exchange on April 4, the latest venture to seek to capitalize on the Check 21 law.

The SVPCO National Check Exchange, the product of several mergers of regional check exchanges, including the Western Payments Alliance and Chicago Clearing House Association, will hold a 30-day registration period for participants starting March 4.

Participation in the National Check Exchange will not require current members to install new systems or processes, but will allow them to simply direct their processors or messengers to drop packages of checks or substitute checks at The Clearing House facilities in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The exchange will compete with Endpoint Exchange and several other fledgling check clearing operations aimed at harnessing the new electronic check clearing law.

Database To Fight Check Fraud

NAPERVILLE, Ill.-UUS Biometrics is partnering with banks and other financial institutions to build a national database of fingerprints to help stem check fraud.

Under the system, known as CheckQ, a bank or credit union collects a fingerprint sample, along with other personal information, from non-customers who come in to cash checks and the fingerprints are used to reference the individual's history for check fraud or other financial crimes, according to Anita Mettille, regional sales manager for the company.

Because the fingerprints are collected without using ink-but by digital imaging-the system is being seen as a companion to the new Check 21 law, which will eventually eliminate the use of paper checks.

The digital fingerprints have proven to be acceptable in court, Mettille told The Credit Union Journal. So far, US Biometrics has enlisted financial institutions in Michigan, Texas, Wisconsin, California and Utah to the system.

Pentagon Adds to FOM Via Merger

ALEXANDRIA, Va.-Pentagon FCU said it has acquired another credit union, its sixth-merger mate in the past two years.

The acquisition of Budget FCU, serving employees of the White House Office of Budget and Management, is the first by Pentagon of a non-defense credit union.

The $10-million Budget FCU has requested the merger because it was experiencing diminishing net worth-down to just 7.3% at Sept. 30 last year.

Frank Pollock, president of Pentagon FCU, acknowledged the merger was a departure from the credit union's normal field of membership. "But we thought there was some potential there," he told The Credit Union Journal.

Pentagon, the nation's third largest credit union with $7.3 billion in assets, has added significantly to its field of membership through the mergers.

Over the past two years Pentagon has also acquired: Fort Shafter FCU, Coast Guard Employees FCU; D.C. Veterans Affairs Medical Center FCU and Fort Hood Military FCU.

Va. CU Seeks New Ground On FOM

NEWPORT NEWS, Va.-Newport News Shipbuilding Employees CU has applied to state regulators for what would be the biggest and most expansive community charter for a state credit union in Virginia.

The bid would allow the $900-million credit union to serve the region surrounding Virginia Beach and all the way south covering eight rural counties in neighboring North Carolina, including the Outer Banks beach resort.

Total population requested of almost two million people would far exceed the 1.4 million surrounding Virginia Beach that Portsmouth-based Northern Star CU was approved to serve last month.

Treasury Extends CDFI Deadline

WASHINGTON-The Treasury Department is extending the application deadline for technical assistance grants provided under its Community Development Financial Institutions Fund for seven weeks until March 7.

There will be about $2 million available under this round of funding, maybe the final round if Congress approves the Bush Administrations proposed budget cuts for CDFI.

About two dozen credit unions received more than $1 million in CDFI technical assistance grants, ranging from $5,000 to $95,000, last year.

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