Bank of Oklahoma is making idle cash more productive.

The bank said it has lowered excess cash inventories at its branches by 24% with software from Carreker-Antinori Inc.

The software is aimed at improving a situation that has become pronounced since 1995, when the Federal Reserve allowed banks to sweep checking account balances into accounts that have no reserve balance requirements.

The Fed's private-letter ruling let banks lower their required reserve account balances. The problem: the surplus cash inventories become noninterest-earning assets-unless the bank is very skilled at inventory management.

"Every dollar above your reserve requirement is dead; it is earning you zero interest," said Eric Ellefson, a managing principal at Carreker- Antinori of Dallas.

The consulting and software company has sold its liquidity management system to 12 banks besides BOK Financial Corp. in the last two years, including Fleet Financial Group and Michigan National Corp. The company claims it has reduced cash inventories among those 13 banks by $500 million.

Bank of Oklahoma, with $5.7 billion of assets and 73 branches in three states, uses Carreker-Antinori's software to determine which reservable checking accounts can be legally reclassified as nonreservable. With lower reserve requirements, the bank then turned its attention to lowering its cash inventory.

The Tulsa-based bank got "creative within the regulatory guidelines," to "lower our reserve requirements," said Paul Elvir, executive vice president at Bank of Oklahoma.

The bank uses Carreker's Cash Tracker, a data-mining program that tracks cash demands for individual branches and ATMs on any given day.

It also uses Cash Forecaster, which tracks expected cash demands using artificial intelligence. Combined, the programs let banks automate cash inventory management from a central location, Mr. Ellefson said. He said banks typically allowed individual branches to make those decisions.

"The difficulty is that you do not know who is doing well or poorly because you do not have any information reporting to help you understand those things," Mr. Ellefson said.

Anthony Carfang, a partner at Treasury Strategies Inc., a Chicago consulting firm, said part of Carreker-Antinori's software involves "balance-sheet tricks" that most larger banks use to lower reserve requirements.

Mr. Carfang said pending legislation sponsored by Rep. Jack Metcalf, R- Wash., would instruct the Fed to pay banks interest on reserve account balances and business checking accounts.

The bill, which has been passed by both the Senate and House Banking committees, could entice banks to increase their reserve account funding, lessening the need for a portion of what Carreker-Antinori's software does.

However, if the proposal becomes law, Mr. Carfang said, it would not apply to cash.

"It makes holding cash all the more expensive for a bank," he said. "That should continue to be a good business for Carreker."

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