Count Huntington Bancshares Inc. as the latest bank seeking to turn its check imaging system into a source of fee income.

In June, the $17-billion-asset Columbus, OH, institution will unveil a new program for its business customers called Visual Pay that is designed to help them spot bad checks more quickly. The program will be sold through the bank's three-year-old Treasury Management Co., which is run by Richard Ercole.

The new program builds upon Positive Pay, a process that many banks' cash management groups have been using in recent years. With this approach, banks match the magnetic ink information printed along the bottom of every check against electronic files sent to them by their business customers. That data includes the bank's Federal Reserve routing number, account number and dollar amount. Corporate treasurers can use the files drawn from the magnetic ink data to verify checks and stop payment on ones that are deemed to be forged.

Huntington plans to take that one step further by using imaged files of each check. Huntington's customers will add the payee's name to the information they are already sending to the bank. On its side of the fence, Huntington will use intelligent character recognition software to match payees' names from the electronic files to computerized images of each check as it's processed.

Ercole says this will be of further assistance to corporations trying to stop check fraud. Huntington is already testing the project with two customers, and plans to offer the product nationwide to businesses and market it to other medium-sized banks that wish to sell it to their corporate clientele.

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