NCR, Unisys Plan Check Imaging for IBM Systems

In an aggressive attempt to preempt IBM Corp. in the emerging field of check imaging, NCR Corp. and Unisys Corp. are preparing to introduce systems compatible with IBM equipment and software, market sources say.

The separate initiatives of IBM's competitors could save banks money because their imaging plans would not be tied to a single brand name.

An Eager Market

The Unisys and NCR products could also speed the installation of image check processing by customers of IBM, which is the leading computer company but whose development of the technology has hit technical snags.

Many bankers have been eager to embrace image processing, which would allow them to process checks and other documents more efficiently and offer new fee-based products such as statements with laser-printed images of checks, rather than the actual documents.

The "open systems" of Unisys and NCR, which is a subsidiary of American Telephone & Telegraph Co., promise the "cost benefit of image technology without having to gut your existing investment," said Bob Hill, vice president of check processing at Wachovia Corp., which is acting as the test site for NCR's system.

"You don't have to replace your IBM system," he added.

According to consultants familiar with the Unisys and NCR plans, the new systems could be available to banks in the first quarter of 1992.

Flexibility Seen

If the NCR and Unisys products can communicate with existing IBM hardware and software, they will be able to preserve banks' investments in systems from that still-dominant manufacturer of central, mainframe computers.

"One of the biggest issues that a bank has is all the back-end application [software], all the things that tie into the host processing system," said John Shain, president of Littlewood, Shain, a consulting firm.

No Choice Previously

Until now, banks that have IBM's proprietary software for controlling check processing functions have had no choice but to wait for an IBM check imaging system. The only alternative - one that few banks would be willing to make - is a costly conversion to another check processing system.

That puts banks married to IBM - 90% of all superregional and money-center institutions, according to some estimates - on hold for check image systems, which are supposed to dramatically cut back office costs and allow for new deposit-product nnovations.

IBM is still developing much of its image check processing software, and is expected to start delivering components in the second quarter of 1992.

Sources say the products under development at Unisys and NCR would handle the image capture and encoding functions and tie into IBM's Check Processing Control System (CPCS), the software that delivers check data to many other bank systems, such as demand-deposit accounting systems.

"What you will see by the end of the first quarter is an announcement that Unisys will be able to tie into CPCS," said a consultant familiar with Unisys' plans. "What they are working on is a way to replace [check encoding machines] with non-IBM devices that can provide communication between their boxes and IBM's."

Brian Blair, marketing director of the Unisys product, called InfoImage, declined to provide specifics on the products. "We are exploring various ways of how to integrate our InfoImage system with enterprise systems," he said.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.