After coming onto the scene with great fanfare in the 1980s, image technology for check processing has been slow to catch on.

But in the last year or so, the list of banks large and small saying they intend to use image technology for the proof-of-deposit function has been growing longer. The list includes CoreStates Financial Corp., Chemical Banking Corp., and Royal Bank of Canada. And last year, the nation s largest check processor, BankAmerica Corp., said it would rapidly deploy imaging technology for proof-of-deposit.

This year, and maybe last year, the rate of increase went from very slow to something like a walk, said Diogo Teixeira, president of Tower Group, a consulting firm in Wellesley, Mass. But, he added, it is absolutely not a gallop.

That s because most big banks still fail to see benefits to justify the expense of introducing image for proof-of-deposit, said Mr. Teixeira.

He added that the industry has also been watching offerings from International Business Machines Corp., which supplies the lion s share of check processing hardware to banks. The company s chief competitor in this business, Unisys Corp., beat IBM to market with its image processing system, and signed on several big banks in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Tower Group reports most of the large banks that installed IBM s high performance transaction system, introduced more than five years ago, use the technology only to generate imaged statements, a relatively low- risk application.

But Mr. Teixeira noted that in 1994 IBM shifted its strategy for the imaging system, positioning it more as a revenue-generating technology than a cost-saving technology. They are really trying to get banks to buy it not for proof-of-deposit, but for the other things you can do with it archiving, positive pay, and statementing, he said.

He added that IBM also found a way around the problem of transmitting images of captured checks from remote check processing sites to centralized mainframes a logistically challenging task with the high volume of items.

That was a big problem for IBM, said Mr. Teixeira.

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