When MainStreet Bank in Herndon, Va., opened its doors in 2004, its corporate banking sales force was among the early hawkers of fledgling remote deposit capture services.

But in those days, remote capture was like a side order of fries, an add-on to treasury management, lockbox or cash management services. It didn't get much support from MainStreet sales reps, leaving clients to their own devices to electronically remit business checks.

"Most of us had dial-up Internet at that time," says Jeff Dick, the chief executive at the $236 million-asset bank. "The concept was ready far before it could be delivered."

As the business potential and customer expectations matured, so did MainStreet's delivery. With nearly 300 remote capture devices deployed, bank officials had to develop a commercial banking unit devoted exclusively to the service-staffed with relationship managers who guide clients through all the capabilities (including fighting check fraud), and support personnel who handle the nuances of a client's training, compliance and technical needs. "Even though business development officers were selling that product, we didn't have time to stay on top of everything," says Sharon Jackson, MainStreet's senior vice president of business development.

Developing remote capture as a business line is a growing trend among banks, with this service emerging as a trailblazer for getting business customers to adoptother electronic services, says consultant John Leekley, the founder and chief executive of Remote Deposit Capture LLC in Atlanta.

"Increasingly, it seems that financial institutions are creating a role all unto itself for a remote deposit product manager," says Leekley.

Bob Meara, a senior banking analyst for Celent, says this is evident in banks' sales training and support programsthat don't "look a whole lot different that what they would do for a lockbox or wires."

It's more than customer demand. Since remote caputure has caught on (more than two-thirds of U.S. banks now offer the service), banks see itas a way to gain more deposits and cut costs with smaller branch staffs. It also serves as a technology gateway to expand branch image capture or e-payment offerings.

Leton Harding, president and CEO of the $1.15 billion-asset First Bank & Trust in Abingdon, Va., first approached remote capture not as an ancillary commercial banking convenience, but as a piece of its e-commerce channel that includes merchant card and automated clearing house services. "What we decided to do was to move and expand the sales area for our traditional Visa/MasterCard merchant staff into more of the electronic commerce sales staff," Harding says.

Many banks also are starting to target niches with their remote capture service, such as specific types of medical, retail, and property management fields, according to Leekley. Meanwhile, large banks with a vast number of customersusing the service are segmenting their offerings by company size.

Wells Fargo, which has 20,000 remote capture customers, has developed distinctplatforms for both small and large businesses. "Checks are declining" in volume, says Mark Walker, a senior vice president in treasury management at Wells, "but we believe there is additional growth in targeting certain niches" with remote caputure services.

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