NationsBank Corp. is offering a cash management product that ties corporate customers more closely to the bank by allowing them to hand off some back-office functions.
The Charlotte, N.C.-based company will originate checks, wire transfers, or automated clearing house items for a customer, based on instructions that the customer sends to the bank in electronic form at the end of each business day upon completion of its accounts payable ledger.
NationsBank has for some time offered software that lets a customer hand off the origination of automated clearing house and wire transfer payments.
Where the Savings Are
But it is just beginning to market the check payments service, and that, the bank says, is where customers can save the most money.
"The company will no longer need to have people manually initiating the checks - they may even be able to eliminate a large print function area," said Nicholas Alex, vice president and product line manager for electronic products at the bank.
Mr. Alex said that customers pay about $3 per item to print and mail a check.
"The product we're rolling out will cut that down to $1 or less per check," Mr. Alex said.
Avoiding a Costly Investment
A large corporation prints anywhere between 50,000 and 300,000 checks a month, he said.
That means the biggest customers could save $600,000 a month by outsourcing their check origination.
NationsBank takes an electronic file from a customer, processes the items, and forwards the remittance detail to the payee. By sending a single file to NationsBank, customers can, if necessary, switch from checks to electronic payments without investing in their own software.
NationsBank processes the wire transfer and automated clearing house payments itself, but First Data Corp. - a New York-based unit of American Telephone and Telegraph Co., produces the checks, and will tailor them to the individual customer's specifications.
Customers also can specify when a payment is to be made - either upon receipt of the file or until a specified payment date. NationsBank will give account reconciliation of the checks it writes for customers in a related service called Positive Pay.
|Slightly Ahead of Us'
Nationsbank is not the first bank to offer a service to outsource check payments origination. "Six or seven banks are slightly ahead of us in the implementation curve," Mr. Alex said. Among them is North Carolina rival Wachovia Corp., which offers the service using a regional check processor.
Nationsbank also is developing software that will allow banks to go back and add checks that they forgot to write, by sending an instruction to the bank from a personal computer.
The software is designed to make it possible to accommodate urgent payments that did not make it into the main batch. The idea is to make it as easy to generate a check by this means as it is to write one.
"We're building the capability to go back and clean up" the previous day's file, Mr. Alex said.
The software is available to customers in all nine states with Nationsbank branches.