Seeking to improve productivity, First USA Bank has modified its image processing system to give quick access to a wider range of customer documents.

The credit card bank, based in Wilmington, Del., said the system has slashed the time required to approve credit applications and to resolve problems.

Now First USA wants to expand system use by adding letters and legal documents for tracking lost and stolen cards.

About 100 customer service employees currently use the system. Thirty-five other employees, in the security area, could use it when the enhancement is up and running that is expected to be in mid-1993.

Dealing with Growth

The bank, a unit of First USA Inc., Dallas, installed the first phase of the system about two years ago to process and authorize card applications. The software was linked to the bank's transaction processing system and later to credit bureaus where applications were scored.

The primary goal, said Greg Powalski, executive vice president of First USA, was to handle increasing volumes of accounts efficiently without adding staff.

The bank has been growing fast. The number of cards outstanding jumped from 2.2 million in 1990 to 2.98 million last year.

A Quiet Trend

While high-priced, high-speed systems to capture images of checks have grabbed more attention in the past few years, lower-cost systems to capture and store documents are quietly being installed in many bank departments.

Usually banks install these systems in single departments, to capture applications for car loans or mortgages.

First USA is unusual in linking so many parts of its customer service area with an imaging system that enables anyone anywhere in the bank to view an image of any of the millions of documents stored electronically.

Adding Features

When first installed the system, manufactured by Filenet Corp., Costa Mesa, Calif., was equipped to capture and store applications for new cards.

The system is linked to the bank's mainframe; when an application is scanned it is linked to a credit bureau report and scored.

In 1991, the bank started to store images of customer correspondence on the system. All new correspondence and account activity for the bank's nearly three million cardholders have now been moved over.

At present the bank is working with Arlington, Va.-based American Management Systems to develop the software for adding and routing the documents about lost and stolen cards.

Higher Productivity

Mr. Powalski said the system helped employee productivity improve by 30% and reduce turnaround time on approvals of new customers from five days to between 24 and 48 hours. As a result, customers get new credit cards faster and can use them sooner.

If a customer calls in reporting a missing card, a service representative can arrange during the phone call for another card to be sent. Before the system was installed, approval from three people was needed for a new card to be sent.

Mr. Powalski said the software has nearly eliminated the need for customers to make second requests to correct billing errors or to send duplicate cards.

In the security area, the planned enhancement would "assist us in coordinating the investigatory process," he said. Data about the status of a case are to be linked with the customer data base and other cardholder inquiries and correspondence. Detection of fraud will continue to be handled by a separate system, using decision-support software residing on a mainframe computer.

First USA originally was a subsidiary of Dallas-based MCorp, which was sold to Lomas & Nettleton in late 1986. MCorp was later bought by Banc One Corp. In 1989, First USA's management bought the company, which last month completed an initial public offering.

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