Barnett Aims to Harness Check Images for Broader Use

Barnett Banks Inc., one of several companies in the late stages of testing image technology for check operations, has already begun lining up some enhancements.

The technology arm of the $32 billion-asset company contracted with GTE Vantage Solutions to provide a "file folder" imaging system that eventually would connect Barnett's proof-of-deposit system with the customer service area.

Unisys Product Tested

"Our thinking is that we can marry the file applications with proof of deposit so that images are not only an operations tool, but also a visible product that we can use to differentiate ourselves," Jonathan Palmer, chairman and chief executive of Barnett Technologies Inc. in Jacksonville, Fla., said this week.

Barnett has been testing a proof-of-deposit system from Unisys Corp., Blue Bell, Pa., for over a year, and Mr. Palmer said he expects it to be ready to process the bank's daily load of three million checks by next summer.

The multimillion-dollar Unisys system is expected to dramatically reduce the cost of processing checks by enabling a bank to process computer images of checks, rather than the items themselves.

With most proof-of-deposit systems, the check image is purged soon after it has been processed, Mr. Palmer said. The file-folder application provided by GTE Vantage Solutions -- an alternative to the relatively expensive optical disk storage method -- would allow the bank to store check images so that they can be accessible to all customer-contact employees.

A Home Banking Angle

"We feel there are a lot of things that can be done with the check image once we find a way to cheaply store it," Mr. Palmer said. "We haven't even thought of all the potential applications."

Barnett officials said the GTE deal could pave the way for advances in home banking, including a system that would allow customers to see images of canceled checks on their home computer screens.

But in the more immediate future, the technology will be used mainly by tellers and platform workers for signature verification and other customer service functions.

Barnett also plans to use the computerized file folders in its lending and human resource operations. By reducing the volume of paper in those departments, the bank hopes to improve efficiency.

Although Mr. Palmer emphasized that the agreement with GTE was primarily aimed at improving Barnett's retail competitiveness, he said the bank is also eager to sell its imaging capability to other financial institutions.

"We see ourselves as being in the outsourcing business," he said. "We see multimedia imaging technologies as the key to success in the years ahead."

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