SAN FRANCISCO - Bank-America Corp. is reaping huge operational benefits from an optical disk storage system it installed in its automated teller machine customer service area 20 months ago.

By eliminating the microfiche that was once used to store records of ATM transactions, the nation's second-largest bank has already saved enough to offset the nearly $1 million it spent on the new optical disk system.

"There are a lot of ancillary benefits to having the data resident on optical disk," said Jack Cardoza, vice president and head of operations at Bank of America's Versatel unit. "But from the elimination of the film alone, we've paid for this system."

Bank of America has no peer in terms of the scope of its ATM operations. The bank operates about 5,000 terminals, which is nearly three times as many ATMs as any other U.S. bank. These machines generate well over 1 million daily transactions that must be recorded, stored, tracked, and sometimes recalled to answer customer inquires.

Nonetheless, Mr. Cardoza and others believe that any bank with more than 100 ATMs has something to learn from Bank of America's experience with microfiche and optical disk.

Time and Expense

Under the bank's old customer service system, transaction records - which indicate the time, date, location, account number, and financial details of each customer visit to an ATM - were recorded on magnetic tape and then transferred to microfiche. This process took up to three days.

Copies of the microfiche were then distributed to each branch for use in answering customer questions about transactions. "We were sending thousands of copies out on a daily basis," Mr. Cardoza said. Locating a given transaction on fiche usually took at least 24 hours.

Aside from the obvious concerns about the time it took to answer customer inquires, Bank of America officials indicated that the costs of distributing and storing the microfiche were also way too high.

The move to optical disk storage offered solutions to all these problems. With the new system, the time to download daily transaction data from the mainframe was reduced by two days.

Also, rather than distributing the data out to all branch locations, the disks can be kept at a central customer service site through which branches can receive information on a transaction within minutes. Within two years, the bank expects that such information will be offered online to the branch locations.

The bank currently has about 20 months' worth of ATM transaction data stored on optical disk; 14 of those months are accessible on-line, and six months are archived. The more away from fiche has saved about 800 square feet of storage space, Mr. Cardoza said.

In addition to streamlining old processes, the optical disk system has brought some new capabilities to the bank.

"We use the system for about four or five major processing functions," said John Meyer, assistant vice president at Versatel.

One of the most interesting of these is the newly acquired ability to identify on-line whether a customer claim about an ATM malfunction has any merit.

Improved Tracking

Another of the system's attractive features is the way it improves the tracking of transaction volumes at different locations. This capability enables the bank to pinpoint sites that are most appropriate for full-service ATMs and those that only require cash dispensers.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.