National Processing Co., a transaction processor owned by National City Corp., is buying a Unisys Corp. imaging system for its four service bureaus.

The $6.8 million contract includes hardware, software, and installation - a 18-month conversion from National Processing's Banctec system.

Service bureaus in Louisville, Dallas, and Phoenix will convert first, followed by the bureau in Atlanta. The Louisville site should be fully operational by the end of July, said a executive with Unisys, which is based in Blue Bell, Pa.

David Zook, executive vice president of corporate services at National Processing, said the new system will enable the company to provide faster, more comprehensive remittance services to corporate customers.

"We can develop ancillary products for our customers,"he said. "It will also enhance our ability to maintain the highest quality service at lower costs."

High-resolution imaging technology is quickly replacing manual-entry systems at companies such as National Processing because it improves the security of the information and speeds its use, said Mr. Zook. "This system will allow us to remain competitive."

His company is the second-largest credit card transaction processor, behind only First Data Corp. of Hackensack, N.J.

National Processing, based in Louisville, Ky., recently filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering that would partially sever its from its Cleveland-based parent. The $50 billion- asset banking company is expected to own 80% of the six million shares to be issued, Mr. Zook said.

The processor, whose name used to be National City Processing Co., specializes in credit card transaction authorization, travel industry processing services, and corporate remittance services. The new imaging system will be used to support its remittance business, which processes 500 million transactions a year, Mr. Zook said.

The installation involves scanning the millions of checks that National Processing settles for more than 200 corporate clients. The images will be visually inspected for errors and coded for key words and dollar amounts.

The new system will run parallel to the old at first, and then gradually replace it, said Timothy Kickham, a Unisys business development manager based in St. Louis.

J&B Software, also of Blue Bell, has been hired as a subcontractor to Unisys. J&B will provide the imaging software. Unisys will provide training and ongoing technical support for the system.

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