Two recent agreements struck by IA Corp. demonstrate how investments in image technology increasingly are aimed at more than improving bank operations.

Wachovia Corp. and Fleet Financial Group Inc. each has agreed to use Emeryville, Calif.-based IA's technology in their cash management areas. Both agreements promise to increase fee revenue.

Image-based services for corporations give banks an opportunity to differentiate themselves from the competition and to generate fee income by charging for services like delivering check images on CD-ROM.

In the corporate cash management area, imaging is "a very hot technology," said David Medeiros, an analyst at the Tower Group.

Wachovia has agreed to use IA's RemitVision for its lockbox remittance processing.

The bank plans to give customers access to remittance-related images both on-line and on CD-ROM, said Catherine W. Towles, collections product line manager at Wachovia Operational Services Corp.

Wachovia expects to deliver three types of images as part of its new service: the check, the remittance slip, and the envelope in which the paper is delivered.

"One of the things that became obvious to us from talking to customers was that there is limited use on their side for the check image. What they really needed was images of the remittance documents," Ms. Towles said.

Having an image of the entire lockbox transaction enables customers to streamline their back-office operations, she said.

The bank's customers have indicated that they would approve of further image-based automation. "They would like to get to the point where there is no paper coming back from the lockbox," Ms. Towles said.

Wachovia expects to offer on-line access and its CD-ROM product by the fourth quarter. The bank will be rolling out the remittance application at its three processing sites-in Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., and Dallas. These facilities handle 2.5 million wholesale remittance items per month.

Fleet Financial, meanwhile, plans to use IA's image archive to help support its cash management services.

The bank already gives corporate customers on-line access and CD-ROMs of check images. The new archive will let the bank increase the volume of images it handles, said Robert G. Clauss, vice president in cash management services at Fleet.

Volume has become a pressing issue for Fleet. In each of the past two years, it has seen 100% growth in the number of corporate checks it handles.

The archive has been up and running since November and already stores 50 million items.

Fleet plans to develop a distributed archive center linking its Hartford, Conn., operations with processing centers in Utica, N.Y.; Malden, Mass.; and Melville, N.J.

This will let Fleet scan checks wherever they are processed and make them available on-line to customers.

"You need to capture the items where the paper is," Mr. Clauss said. This strategy will speed up processing and help customers detect possible fraud.

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