No option. That's how Fleet Financial Group is running its image statement program. Customers are not given the choice between getting their actual checks back or images of checks. They just get the images.

Technology managers at the $45 billion-asset bank figure that's the best way to recoup the $1.3 million or so they have invested in imaging technology.

"Before imaging technology was introduced for the Fleet One product, we had to collect and interfile the checks for each account -- a tremendous amount of work was involved," said Dana Cosby, vice president of business systems planning for Fleet Services Corp.

Now, the idea is to make the check-handling part of the process obsolete. With the IBM HPTS image system that sits atop its 3890 XP reader-sorter, Fleet can take images from multiple checking accounts and electronically sort them into consecutive pages.

A Special Benefit

"It would be a huge cost to physically manipulate checks into sequence," explained Mr. Cosby, "but we're able to do that for image statements. We sort them into check order."

Of course, advanced technology like this takes its toll on people's jobs.

"At first, instead of displacement, we'll probably see less need to hire new employees," Mr. Cosby said.

Today, bank employees encode the dollar amount of a check into the MICR line. An image proof of deposit system will allow the dollar amount to be read automatically, explained Mr. Cosby.

"This eliminates a whole step as well as proof hardware and people" he said. "We are looking at a net reduction of 50% in item processing staff."

Starting at the Top

Fleet began its experiment in imaging with its upscale Fleet One combined-account customers. Fleet One statements show checking and savings account activity as well as brokerage and credit card information.

Earlier this year, the bank started mailing images of checks as well as the actual checks in the monthly statements for Fleet One account holders.

In August, the bank, based in Providence, R.I., began sending images only.

"We have weaned our existing customers off returned checks by sending both checks and image for two months and then going to image only," said Mr. Cosby.

Since the test with, the Fleet One account customers went so well, the bank is now considering rolling out image statements for its other retail customers.

And it is now studying other applications for its imaging technology.

Fleet decided to focus on image statements first for three reasons: it was something that Fleet could get out to customers and thereby get a jump on the competition; it was a smaller, more manageable project than many other image applications; and it provided the bank with leverage to move on to other image applications.

"We feel that we won on three counts by going to image statements first," said Mr. Cosby.

V

The bank is using IBM imaging technology. It is a beta-test site for IBM's image statement

V technology.

"Back in mid-1989, we talked with IBM about image applications and IBM figured proof of deposit would be first out of the box, but we recommended that image statements be the first focus," Mr. Cosby recalled.

"We market [imaging statements] as a financial management package, with everything printed on three-hole paper," Mr. Cosby said. "The bank offers a binder that customers can buy that comes with built-in monthly dividers and pockets for ATM receipts and/or installment loan payment books. We view it as a product benefit and market it that way."

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.