Boca Raton, Fla. — SunTrust Banks Inc. plans to unveil digital deposit technology by this fall, as part of its efforts to upgrade the systems its checking customers use, an executive told American Banker on Monday.

The bank's new remote-deposit capture system will allow customers to take pictures of checks with their smartphones and submit the deposits electronically, a feature that customers have been clamoring for.

"Everything we're hearing from clients is [that] they can't wait. On social media we're hearing about it all the time: 'Hey you launched a new mobile app, where's the picture deposit? You're missing picture deposit,'" Thomas McDermott, senior vice president of cross-channel strategy for SunTrust, said in an interview at a retail financial services conference.

"We're trying to make sure we get it as quickly as possible," he said, adding that the bank expects to launch the system by the third quarter of 2012.

While SunTrust would like to offer remote-deposit capture more quickly, McDermott notes that installing the necessary technology remains a hurdle. The bank recently started unveiling envelop-free deposits at its branches, which requires less time and work.

Remote-deposit capture is "a little bit more difficult because, as opposed to physically taking a check and putting it in a machine, when you take a picture from home you have to get all our fraud systems in place, you have to make sure that the clearing is all done right, and you have to work with your check processing vendor in addition to your mobile vendor," McDermott adds.

SunTrust began offering digital envelope-free deposits at its branches in late 2010 with a pilot program in Atlanta, and has now retrofitted ATMs at 65% of its branches, he says. The rest of the ATMs are expected to be switched over later this year.

"First thing we did was put the machines in with limited advertising and we had a really big pick up," he said. "Our numbers keep going up, and every market has seen a huge pick up."

Offering envelope-free deposits and other new technology for its customers helps the regional bank keep up with its larger national rivals, including Wells Fargo & Co., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Bank of America Corp., says McDermott.

"When they have that capability and we don't, it's a huge disadvantage to us," he said.

But lagging the big banks also has its advantages. In a panel discussion at a retail financial services conference on Monday, McDermott said that early adoption of the envelope-free deposits by other banks has made the transition for SunTrust much easier, because customers understand what they are getting.

"I want to thank Bank of America and Chase for their early adoption," he said. "I actually love the Chase advertising as well. I appreciate the halo effect, so every time they do that we get more users."

The annual Best Practices in Retail Financial Services Symposium was sponsored by American Banker and its publisher, SourceMedia Inc.