Home Savings of America, the nation's largest savings institution, is offering customer statements with digitized images of canceled checks.

The $38 billion-asset subsidiary of H.F. Ahmanson & Co., Irwindale, Calif, will offer statement imaging to all of its checking account customers, making it the largest institution in California to do so. The service could eventually involve more than 700,000 accounts spread over Home Savings' nine-state branch network.

Customers who opt for the service will receive images of their checks, printed 15 to a letter-sized page. Only the front of the check will be reproduced. Customers also can request up to four facsimiles of checks each month, including images of both the front and back, at no additional charge.

Free Option for Customers

New checking account customers will receive image statements automatically. Home Savings will promote the service to existing customers as a free option, using statement stuffers and other means, according to Ed McGrath., an executive vice president and director of Home Savings' retail services division.

Mr. McGrath said Home Savings has incorporated International Business Machines Corp.'s ImagePlus system with its existing IBM check processing equipment to capture the images and create the statements.

Big Postage Savings Seen

The main benefits to Home Savings, said Mr. McGrath, will be reductions in both processing time and the cost of mailing monthly statements. The image capture process eliminates the need to fine-sort checks, which Home Savings estimates can reduce statement processing times by up to 80%.

"Of the 700,000 accounts we have, maybe 200,000 of those are accounts with limited check writing capability. We won't save much by moving those to imaging," said Mr. McGrath. "But we can cut the postage costs for the rest of the statements almost in half."

Mr. McGrath noted the imaging capability is just one part of Home Savings' plan to revamp its customer statements, adding that the thrift plans to introduce a statement with combined multiple accounts sometime next year.

Home Savings would not disclose the cost of its system, or the expected annual savings from its implementation. Large-scale imaging systems such as ImagePlus for statements typically cost more than $1 million.

Formal introduction of the product follows a trial rollout involving 10,000 Home Savings customers and employees.

Few Complaints So Far

Customers writing more than 50 checks a month were converted during the trial.

So far, there have been few complaints. Only 3% of the converted customers have asked to receive their canceled checks instead of image statements, according to Mr. McGrath.

Image technology in check processing is taking hold. Nearly 40% of the nation's banks and thrifts are using or installing systems for statements or proof of deposit, according to the American Banker/Ernst & Young 1993 Survey of Technology in Banking.

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