Chase Manhattan Corp. has formed a joint venture with Regulus Group to handle retail lockbox operations.

After regulatory approval, Chase Regulus Receivables Management would assume direct management of Chase's New York-area facility and staff.

Chase's bank in Texas used Regulus and now the money-center bank is turning to the joint venture in hopes of expanding its lockbox network nationally. Regulus is based in Bala Cynwyd, Pa.

Chase is making a go at the low-margin business of consumer-to-corporate remittance processing, which many other banks have abandoned.

In contrast to wholesale lockbox services, retail does little to advance relationships with corporate customers, said Lawrence Forman, cash management analyst at Ernst & Young.

Ray Fattell, senior vice president of Chase Treasury Solutions, said that "by entering into this agreement with Regulus, Chase is aligning with a company that has an image-enabled national lockbox infrastructure.

"The combination of Regulus' state-of-the-art retail lockbox technology with Chase's current wholesale image technology capabilities provides a comprehensive receivables offering to the market," he said.

First Interstate Bancorp owned Regulus before being absorbed into Wells Fargo & Co. in 1996. Regulus continues to process for Wells Fargo and is among the top four lockbox providers, handling more than 325 million items a year. It has 3,000 corporate and government accounts.

Mellon Bank Corp., First Union Corp., Bank One Corp., and National Processing Co., a 1997 spinoff of National City Corp., are other major operators of retail lockboxes.

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