Shawmut Installing

Shawmut National Corp. is installing imaging technology from Cincinnati Bell Information Systems Inc.

The technology is designed to improve the bank's cash management services.

The initial installation of the system - to be completed in June - will allow Shawmut's corporate customers directly to retrieve digitized images of checks from the bank, said Niels Jensen, an executive vice president at Hartford, Conn.-based Shawmut.

Mr. Jensen said Shawmut, with $27 billion of assets, has thus far spent more than $1 million on software and hardware.

The service is to be piloted by two large insurance companies that the bank declined to name.

The Cincinnati Bell systems, called image archive and retrieval and remote image distribution, will run on hardware from AT&T Global Information Solutions (formerly NCR Corp.) and Eastman Kodak.

"This gives us an opportunity to accelerate what had up to this time been paper transactions," Mr. Jensen said.

Now, he said, when a corporate customer needs to see a copy of a check that is overdrawn, for example, banks must retrieve the item from microfilm and fax it to the customer.

With the new system, business customers will be able to call up the image of a check.at a workstation. Then the business can electronically instruct the bank to return the check or make the payment.

The initial application will be for such "exception" checks which, Mr. Jensen added, can help contain fraud.

The technology also allows images to be delivered on CD-ROM, optical platters,

and tape.

Banks have been closely watching imaging technology, which offers the promise of reducing the heavy volume of paper involved in tasks such as check processing.

In the last couple of years, a number of big banks, including CoreStates Financial Corp., Philadelphia, and New York-based Chase Manhattan Corp., have moved to similar check imaging systems for wholesale customers.

Ron Thompson, director of sales and marketing for Cincinnati-based CBIS, said the technology provides faster, more convenient, and higher quality document management service.

"Cash management customers are willing to pay more" for such service, he said, adding, "a more efficient back office also provides opportunities for fee income."

Mr. Thompson said other customers for the document management system include the Federal Reserve banks of Minneapolis and Dallas.

Shawmut officials say they plan additional applications for the system. A third insurance company will begin to pilot the complete check archive system in the third quarter this year, Mr. Jensen said.

The system also has the capacity to store images of other documents, such as loan agreements or correspondence.

"There still may be paper, but the ability to look at that paper will be electronic," said Mr. Jensen.

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