Customers planted in teller lines waiting to cash checks because they mistrust ATMs that don't offer proof their checks were received may be lured out of line by new check-cashing ATMs. New Jersey-based Summit Bank retrofitted

29 of its terminals to be check-cashing sites; the machines now accept checks without an envelope, use character recognition to read the courtesy amount, display an image of the check on the screen and soon will print an image of the deposited check on the customer's receipt. "We want to provide service 24 by 7," says George Nichols, svp of electronic banking at Summit. "We want customers to do as much of their banking as self- service as possible."

Of the 29 check-cashing ATMs initially deployed, 25 are in Summit supermarket branches-strengthening the self-service, convenience model that originally inspired supermarket branches. Summit uses both NCR and Diebold ATMs, but initially only NCR machines were converted. The bank is considering the rest of it's 500-plus ATM network in New Jersey for retrofitting on a case-by-case basis. "If there's an opportunity for us to provide that service in lieu of personal services and in an extended-hour period, then we would go ahead and put it in," Nichols says.

The imaging software used in the check cashing application is capable of reading OCR, MICR, bar codes, Omnifont and constrained hand print. While Summit officials were mum about future ATM applications, NCR contends that when banks tie in the courtesy amount recognition portion of the application to their systems, they can increase cost savings exponentially by integrating the program into back office functions for encoding and endorsing checks. "I think you will see a lot more banks look at, once we've got this done, how do we integrate this into the back office," says Rob Evans, NCR's marketing director for the self-service systems group. "It's pretty obvious by the capabilities that NCR has built into the document processing module that you can automate (back office functions). Now that's going to require quite a bit of coding, but once you're finished with that effort you're going to save yourself a small fortune in check processing."

Upgrading the machines to display check images or print copies of the check is a relatively inexpensive, easy-to-do, modular installation that costs about $12,000 per machine, Evans says. Installing the hardware and software required for maximum integrated functionality costs about $35,000 per machine.

-sausner tfn.com

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