Low-Cost Imaging System Gives Bank's Printers a Rest

Image processing systems are often too steeply priced for many community banks, but one Wisconsin institution has found a low-cost solution.

Mid Wisconsin Financial Services Inc. has implemented the first stage of a three-part plan to replace paper reports and documents with electronic images. Optical disks for computers can store vast amounts of data and resemble compact disks used for recorded music.

Mid Wisconsin, a $230 million-asset bank holding company based in Medford, runs three community banks in the central part of the state. The company has installed a system that eliminates the printing of 75 to 100 reports a day.

Reams of Savings

New software is used to record information that goes into trial balances, interest accrual reports, statements, and other documents ranging in size from a few pages to hundreds of pages.

Instead of sending documents to a printer, as was the old procedure, the software indexes directly from the host computer, an IBM System/36, and sends the recorded data to an optical disk storage system. Reports can be downloaded to any desktop computer in the bank.

The software, called Spoolview, is from DataTradeInc., Springfield, Mo.

The system not only eliminates paper but also simplifies document retrieval.

"The retrieval part is not giving us the benefits today that it will years from now," said Luccille Brandner, executive vice president. "After we have years of information on the system, it will be much easier to retrieve things when customers or attorneys need information. Right now, we have to dig back into microfiche and paper files."

Priced at $16,000

The total cost of the system was around $16,000 for the hardware and software. Some document imaging systems are designed to work with large mainframes, and can cost up to a million dollars. Mid Wisconsin is installing the system in each of its three banks.

The first phase of the bank's plan only eliminates new paper documents. The next phase will eliminate existing paper documents.

Over the next three years the bank will install Imagistics, also from DataTrade, a PC-based system that integrates imaging capabilities with a bank's existing software applications. The cost of the Imagistics system, which includes software, scanners, and other special equipment, will run about $50,000.

Confident of Savings

Mid Wisconsin has not yet determined how much it is currently saving by eliminating paper, but the bank is convinced that the savings are significant.

"There are some cost savings in just eliminating the paper, but there are other benefits because people don't have to spend time sifting through microfilm or shredding and burning old paper," she said.

The third phase will be the implementation of an imaging system for the bank's check processing operation.

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