CCB Financial Corp. has joined the Payment Systems Network Inc., a local automated clearing house association looking to expand regionally.

Charles E. Dail, a senior vice president with Central Carolina Bank, said the bank will end its relationship with the North Carolina Automated Clearing House at the end of this year.

The Durham, N.C., bank is the latest of several - including First Federal Savings Bank, LaGrange, Ga., and Branch Banking and Trust Co., Wilson, N.C. - to leave regional associations for Maitland, Fla.-based Payment Systems.

Mr. Dail said Payment Systems' larger staff and more abundant resources will provide it with better technical and educational support not only for automated clearing house services, but for other types of payment systems as well, including electronic data interchange and electronic benefits transfer services.

Though the North Carolina clearing house association intends to merge with its counterpart from the Virginias, Mr. Dail nonetheless said the bank needed a change.

"We foresee the future of electronic banking overlapping to include other payment mechanisms besides the ACH," he said.

The $5 billion-asset bank needed "to be a part of an organization that can deal with not only other payment mechanisms, but would also look out for our best interests on a national level," Mr. Dail said.

Local clearing house groups like the North Carolina Automated Clearing House collectively make up the National Automated Clearing House, which is the rulemaking body for the clearing house network. The local groups help banks and corporations with educational and marketing initiatives.

There are 38 clearing house associations, including the VisaNet ACH and several single-bank networks. Traditionally they have operated within their states, or within a geographic regions, without encroaching upon the areas of others.

But with consolidation reducing the number of banks, and with bankers driving for greater efficiency, duplicative memberships with clearing house associations become an easy target for cost-conscious bankers.

"Our members are in need of products and services that enable them to be more competitive in the marketplace," said Patricia Schultz, executive director of Payment Systems.

Marshal E. Tyner, a senior vice president with Branch Banking and Trust said the bank, which has also joined Payment Systems, is questioning the need to remain with a regional clearing house group in South Carolina.

"We are debating South Carolina, but haven't made a final decision."

Like Mr. Dail, Mr. Tyner pointed to the expanded role the larger Payments Systems can play in emerging electronic payment businesses.

By merging, Mr. Tyner said, the Virginia and North Carolina clearing house groups "hope" to address their member bank's concerns, but "with the consolidation still going on in the banking industry, I don't know if the two of them together will have the resources to survive long term."

He added that Payment Systems was uniquely positioned to provide added services in other payment systems, such as electronic check presentment.

Payment Systems is allied with the Southeast Switch Inc., which operates the Honor ATM Network. Branch Banking and Trust owns a 15% stake in the network.

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