Many bankers are abandoning their wait-and-see attitude about imaging systems that process deposited checks, as a number of big contracts loom.

Though Unisys Corp. is still the only vendor with a tested version of an image proof-of-deposit system installed in the United States, several other companies, including International Business Machines Corp. and BancTec Inc., Dallas, are poised to begin installing their systems at bank before year-end.

And with the processing of digitized images of checks rather than the actual items becoming more viable each day, the predicted demand for the million-dollar proof-of-deposit systems is finally starting to materialize.

Big Deal Claimed

Dallas-based BancTec said it plans to announce a contract with one of the nation's biggest banks sometime in October. The bank, which Banctec said has over $50 billion in assets, would be its first proof-of-deposit client.

IBM, which has experienced delays in delivering its proof-of-deposit systems, is also said to be within months to announcing its first customers. And Unisys said that next month it will be announce additional customers for its system that four banks already have in production.

Observers attribute the recent flurry to activity to the success of the pioneering banks that are now running the Unisys proof-of-deposit system: Comerica Inc., Detroit; Huntington Bancshares Inc., Columbus, Ohio; Barnett Banks Inc., Jacksonville, Fla.; and Signet Banking Corp., Richmond.

Since the beginning of this year, these institutions have been running nearly all their check work through Unisys systems. And other institutions are seeing that in these banks the 20% labor reduction and balancing improvements promised by image proof-of-deposit systems are being realized.

"What we are seeing now is not surprising - the fence sitters were waiting to see what would happen at the test banks, and now that the verdict is in, they are acting," said Stanley E. Miltko, a senior vice president at Littlewood, Shain & Co., an Exton, Pa., consulting firm specializing in image technology.

On a more subtle level, though, the increased activity might be linked to bank's having more money to spend to imaging systems, which can cost millions of dollars. Over the past year, earnings have been up, and there is more spending money than a year or two ago.

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