This year's Bank Administration Institute Transaction Processing Conference did not feature any blockbuster vendor announcements, but several companies unveiled new partnerships and niche products.

International Business Machines Corp. made news with a new software system designed to let banks offer consumers and businesses statements that detail where payments are going.

The software works with special checks that have on their faces icons representing a variety of expense categories, such as utilities, pets, and medical.

Check writers mark an icon to indicate the type of expense the check covers, and the IBM software "reads" the mark and categorizes payments on an "Expert Statement."

The product is designed to help banks provide services to the "80% or 90% of the world" that does not use personal finance software, such as Microsoft Corp.'s Money or Intuit Inc.'s Quicken, said Geoff Emerson, director of IBM payment solutions.

Under an agreement with OnTrack Management Systems Inc., which originated and trademarked the Smart Check, IBM has exclusive rights to sell the product to banks with $8 billion or more of assets. IBM plans also to sell the product to smaller institutions.

Mr. Emerson said the first Expert Statement systems should go live in the third quarter.

Also at the conference, Banctec Inc. of Dallas unveiled a low-speed line of check processing hardware that can be easily upgraded to process larger volumes.

Banctec primarily serves the community bank market, but the new transport hardware, called the E-Series, also will be marketed to the largest banks, according to Nolan Klier, director at Banctec.

The company also introduced ImageFirst, a check image system that covers a complete range of processing functions, including proof of deposit, exception-item processing, and image archiving on CD-ROM.

"Image will be the prevailing technology for the next 20 or 30 years," Mr. Klier said. "It will allow the payment system to become more efficient."

He added that as part of Banctec's effort to offer more diversified services, the company is expanding its systems integration abilities.

In other news, NCR Corp. and Unisys Corp. announced a remarketing agreement in which the vendors will sell and service certain components of each others' check processing hardware.

Unisys, of Blue Bell, Pa., will sell NCR's proof of deposit encoders. Dayton, Ohio-based NCR will in turn sell Unisys' high-speed check processing transport hardware.

The agreement will allow the companies to "complement each other's item processing hardware offerings, and should help strengthen the position of both," said David Medeiros, analyst at Tower Group, a Wellesley, Mass.- based bank technology consulting firm.

Also at the conference, Dallas-based Sterling Commerce Inc. unveiled seven software products designed to help banks turn paper checks into electronic files.

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