Boatmen's, Others Upgrade Imaging in Lockbox Service

Boatmen's National Bank, St. Louis, like other banks trying to pave the way for new services to corporate lockbox customers, is making major improvements to its imaging capability.

Boatmen's, a subsidiary of Boatmen's Bancshares, said this week that it would install a new system from TRW Financial Systems Inc. in December. Several other institutions with large lockbox businesses, including NCNB Corp. and CoreStates Financial Corp., have upgraded their operations in the past year.

"The technology is so much more advanced than it was when we first installed imaging systems," said Sandy Bigham, vice president at Boatmen's, the biggest bank in St. Louis and flagship of a $17 billion-asset, multi-state holding company.

Room for Expansion

"The upgrade will allow us to expand the system in the future and offer new services," Ms. Bigham said.

Corporate customers are clamoring for services that will allow their lockbox banks to transmit images of checks and remittance documents directly to their accounts-receivable systems. With current systems, banks send the images on paper by mail, which can take days.

Corporations want to update their accounts-receivable files faster and handle exception items more quickly. Transmitting facsimiles or providing overnight computer tapes will speed the process.

New Hardware Installed

To that end, Boatmen's and other banks are upgrading their lockbox systems with new image cameras, image transport units, image terminals, local area networks, storage units, and printers.

Boatmen's has 600 wholesale lockbox customers and operates 1,000 lockboxes around the country that receive payments on behalf of the customers. The bank processes 750,000 items a day, more than twice the number processed when the image system was installed in 1983.

The immediate benefits of the upgrades include an ability to handle greater transaction volumes and a new capability to produce larger images that are easier for customers to read.

Longer term, the upgrades will allow the bank to plug in new equipment to automatically fax copies of checks to corporate customers, send copies of computer tapes to customers, or transmit images electronically to a customer's computer. This capability is known as "image export."

Transmission Test Due

TRW has designed a system for the fax and tape method, which it plans to begin testing at a few banks early next year.

TRW officials say the electronic transmission of images will not be affordable until the cost of the communication lines comes down.

Philip Schaadt, vice president of business development at TRW, said the image export system would be ready next summer.

"We have a few large bank customers that are interested in this application," he said. It will cost "in the $100,000 range."

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