Unisys Corp. and Littlewood, Shain & Co. are teaming up to offer consulting services to banks considering Unisys' image processing system for check operations.

Unisys will work with Littlewood, Shain, a consulting firm headquartered in Exton, Pa., to assist potential customers in developing business case analysis for image processing.

The alliance is the latest in a string of vendor-consultant partnerships aimed at broadening the marketing reach of each party and at providing banks with the technology and cost-justification expertise needed for implementing large-scale projects.

The trend comes as technology suppliers are reeling from the consolidation and tough economic times in the banking industry. Banks are cutting bank technology budgets or putting projects on hold because the banks have limited capital in which to invest in technology.

Alliances Now In Fashion

This puts pressure on vendors and consultants to find ways to reach more customers without hiring more staff. Vendors and consultants have always formed partnerships for various products and services, but marketing alliances are now more in vogue than ever.

For example, Andersen Consulting and Systematics Financial Services Inc. formed a partnership in September under which they will jointly market banking software, systems integration, and data processing services to financial institutions.

Bisys, a Houston-based data processing company, is working with a firm that was recently formed to assist banks in making decisions about outsourcing, that is, when a bank hires an outside company to run its data processing operations.

And International Business Machines Corp. has been working informally with J.D. Carreker and Associates Inc., a Dallas-based consultant and software developer, on projects relating to electronic check presentment and outsourcing.

A Nonexclusive Relationship

The Unisys/Littlewood Shain alliance is nonexclusive, said John Shain, president of the consulting company. The two companies will continue to work with clients that have chosen other suppliers and consultants. But Unisys and Littlewood Shain have many clients in common and will recommend each other to new as well as current customers.

"We have teamed with Unisys at this point because they have the only functional image-based delivery system available in the marketplace," said Mr. Shain. "We would like to have our clients embrace the full technology in the their operations."

Mr. Shain said that the alliance would give both companies more resources to offer bank customers.

It's Hard to Go It Alone

"The financial service industry is undergoing so much change that we do not have all the resources at the ready to bring what the banks say they require at this point," said Mr. Shain. "Littlewood Shain doesn't have the technical support in place that Unisys can provide when we're working with our customers."

The consulting firm also markets software to track and manage check floats. The software will be integrated with the Unisys check image system, said Brian Blair, director of Unisys' InfoImage payment systems marketing.

Littlewood Shain is developing a check tracking and identification system that will help banks find ways to expedite the processing of high-dollar and other groups of checks. This system will also be integrated with the Unisys image system.

Image System Customers

Unisys has sold the image check system to several banks, including Northern Trust, Signet Bank, Huntington Bank, and Barnett Bank. The company is talking with a few dozen other institutions, officials said.

Banks that choose to hire Littlewood Shain can contract for consulting service specifically related to check image processing.

These services include analysis of workflow changes in implementing image systems, benefits analysis, profit-enhancement strategies for float and deposit products, and operations analysis to identify the cost savings achieved through image processing.

The consulting firm has already worked with 25 institutions, developing business case studies and operating plans for implementing image systems, executives said.

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