Acquiring PaymentsNation would give Viewpointe LLC a settlement capability to complement its image-clearing service, along with a foothold in the automated clearing house market.
The deal Viewpointe announced Monday for the assets of PaymentsNation, a Dallas regional payments association that offers ACH services to 600 community banks and credit unions, highlights the growing connections between the two payment types.
Viewpointe, one of the biggest players in the check imaging market, said offering settlement services would make it more efficient in that rapidly growing market.
The New York company said it is eager to expand into the ACH business, though many of the details of this new stage in its evolution have yet to be worked out, notably how it plans to use PaymentsNation's voting membership in Nacha, the electronic payments association.
Diane Scott, the chief sales, marketing, and product officer at Viewpointe, said in an interview Tuesday that buying the PaymentsNation assets would significantly expand her company's capabilities. "We'll be able to look at areas like ACH where we haven't had the expertise."
The deal also would strengthen Viewpointe's competitive position against The Clearing House Payments Co. LLC, which already offers both settlement and clearing through its SVPCO image exchange unit, she said.
"This is a logical next step" for both Viewpointe and PaymentsNation, Ms. Scott said. "We're going to move very aggressively to provide full end-to-end clearing and settlement options for our customer base."
PaymentsNation has long acted as the settlement agent for banks that clear payments through Viewpointe's system. Eleven major banks store their check images in its archive, and some use it to clear payments through an image sharing model. Viewpointe also offers the Pointe2Pointe image exchange clearing service.
Glenn Wheeler, PaymentsNation's chief executive, would continue to head the organization, which would operate as a subsidiary of Viewpointe and would retain its offices in Dallas and Phoenix.
Mr. Wheeler said one important asset for his company is its relationship with Nacha; as one of 19 regional payments associations, PaymentsNation is a voting member of the ACH rulemaker.
"It was important to our members that the entity did not lose the PaymentsNation voice," he said.
Ms. Scott said many details of the deal have yet to be worked out, including when it will close, how her company would handle the mechanics of the Nacha membership, and whether PaymentsNation would retain its name, adopted in April of last year when the National Clearing House Association merged with Payments Resource One.
"How they come together, we're going to have to figure out in the coming weeks and months," she said.
Scott Lang, Nacha's senior vice president of association services, said its voting membership — representatives of 25 financial institutions that are direct members, along with the regional payment associations — play an important role in setting ACH policy.
"We fully expect that PaymentsNation will remain as a distinct entity within the Viewpointe structure," Mr. Lang said.
R.C. "Rick" Leander, an executive vice president of The Clearing House, said bringing settlement in-house at Viewpointe is a straightforward issue, but integrating the regional payments association component could be tricky.
"Running an RPA is a very different kind of an animal," from an image clearing system, Mr. Leander said. "The fact that there are 19 of them out there points to the difficulty of getting them integrated into other kinds of institutions."
The Clearing House's Electronic Payments Network, the nation's only private-sector ACH operator, is also the nation's largest regional payments association, with 1,500 members.
Nancy Atkinson, a senior analyst at the Boston research and advisory firm Aite Group LLC, said banks have supported multiple organizations and business models as a way of hedging their bets in a time when payment systems are undergoing rapid change.
Banks are increasingly converting paper checks into electronic payments, either through image clearing systems or by converting them into ACH payments, she said, and it makes sense for Viewpointe to want to have its feet in both areas.
The PaymentsNation deal "is a step toward more integration," Ms. Atkinson said. "This is a way for Viewpointe to expand its value proposition."