Servantis Systems Inc. has developed client/server based software that automates the accounting and maintenance related to bank safe deposit boxes.
The software, called Vault, automates the billing and receiving of safe deposit box rentals by allowing for direct debiting of bank accounts for safe deposit fees. The software also helps banks track safe deposit box billing, allowing for the assessment of late fees, where applicable.
Though they are not likely ever to become huge fee generators, safe deposit box services can produce incremental revenue for institutions interested in improving their operations by automation.
"(Vault) gives us the flexibility to charge boxes in ways that we haven't done before," said Nora Paige, a vice president with Peoples Bank, the software's beta test site.
Steve Drew, a senior vice president with Norcross, Ga.-based Servantis, said there were widely varying degrees to which banks used their vaults.
To some institutions, vaults are "assets that just sit there," while to others, they represent opportunities to "greatly increase their return on assets," said Mr. Drew, whose company has sold safe deposit box accounting software for several years.
The safe deposit box is one of the few remaining branch service left that requires customers actually to visit the branch. Mr. Drew said banks can tie the new software to customer information files to use the occasion of customer visits as a way to cross-sell bank products.
"We've done a lot of things to open up their eyes to increase their fee income," Mr. Drew said. "Its almost a no-brainer."
Servantis said that institutions installing Vault can add nearly $4 a box each year.
Mr. Drew said such gains can translate into millions of dollars in fee revenue at an institution the size of Wachovia Corp., Winston-Salem, N.C., or NationsBank Corp., Charlotte, N.C.
The software's client/server technology also allows for signature scanning and on-line verification, which is an important function since banks have tremendous liabilities if branches allow safe deposit access to unauthorized parties.
Peoples Bank, a Bridgeport, Conn.-based institution with $6.5 billion of assets and 78 branches, is the main office of Peoples Mutual Holdings.
The bank has 50,000 safe deposit boxes and expects to add more. It is in the second phase of testing the software, which involves decentralizing its deposit box branch operations.
The software's pricing varies according to the number of safe deposit boxes. Servantis' licensing fee starts at about $1 a box plus an annual maintenance fee.
Servantis has over 400 installations of its earlier, mainframe-based deposit box accounting software. The Vault package is only one of several products the company has, or will convert to client/server technology, which distributes processing to personal computers.
Mr. Drew said the new technology "gives us more ability to go after the community banks and smaller institutions, something we really haven't done before."