Aims to Cut Costs with Image Processing Equipment

Striving to achieve larger economies of scale, Comerica Inc. has begun consolidating its check processing operations into a single facility.

Detroit-based Comerica is the only financial institution in the United States to have successfully installed image processing systems for both proof-of-deposit and monthly statement printing functions. Bank officials said they were eager to begin reaping the productivity benefits that will come from moving larger volumes of items to the new systems.

In check imaging systems, actual checks are replaced by digitized images, which can be processed much more efficiently than paper items.

Acquisition of Manufacturers

As the result of a merger with Manufacturers National Corp., which becomes official June 18, Comerica's new operations center will handle about two million checks a day.

"Our check imaging systems are still maturing, and absorbing the new volumes does create some obstacles for us," said Greg Goleniak, head of the check imaging project at Comerica. "But the whole deal in this [check processing] business is scale, and that's what we're striving to achieve."

According to the consolidation plan, four operations centers around Michigan will be moved to a single facility in Livonia, Mich. Bank officials expect the consolidation to be completed early next year.

Through check processing will be the main function at the new site, the new facility will also handle corporate cash management support and deposit system accounting.

The Livonia site, which previously was Manufacturers National's main operations facility, will employ about 1,000 people.

Four hundred of these employees will be transferred from Comerica's Auburn Hills, Mich., facility. In addition, 110 employees from the Jackson, Mich., operations center will have the opportunity to transfer either to Livonia or to some other Comerica office.

Comerica officials said it was too early to be specific about how many jobs would be eliminated as a result of the operations consolidation.

However, when the Comerica-Manufacturers merger agreement was first announced last October, Comerica officials projected about 1,800 jobs would be eliminated by 1994. A spokesman for the bank said he now expects that number to climb as high as 2,000, and operations would account for "a significant portion" of the layoffs.

By 1994, Comerica expects to eliminate 15% of the merged bank's combined overhead - about $145 in annual expense reductions. Bank officials said the Livonia consolidation would contribute a large part of that savings.

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