When new technology winds up mimicking old ways of doing things, it's not always a negative. Consider, for instance, Comerica Inc.'s Gateway messaging system; after an intense, three-year effort, they've succeeded in re-creating, via computer, the days when all mailmen picked up and delivered your mail at the same time.

The $36 billion-asset, Detroit-based Comerica created a product that allows its corporate customers to both send to and receive from the regional bank a large variety of treasury management transaction messages, including S.W.I.F.T. and FedWire messages, letters of credit applications, automated clearing house operations and getting general account information. By doing so, Comerica has managed to both build its treasury management book and boost the area's profitability. "You tend to be able to sell (customers) more" services for "about 25 percent cheaper" than under the old system, says Bruce Valentine, Comerica's first vp for corporate product development.

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