AT&T Corp. is not the only company reorganizing itself and focusing more intently on the financial industry.
Unisys Corp., Blue Bell, Pa., has embarked on a similar, if differently structured, mission. And, not surprisingly, the financial industry plays a large role in its plans.
With third-quarter losses expected to approach $60 million, Unisys recently announced plans to split itself into three operating units: a computer hardware unit, a systems consulting division, and a support group.
Though the units will not be as independent as the three publicly traded companies that AT&T will create, the reorganizations are similar in that both technology companies have recommitted themselves to the financial services industry.
Unisys derives almost a third of its revenues from the financial services industry, but the company feels it does not always get the recognition it deserves - particularly in areas like image processing.
As part of an attempt to fix this situation, Unisys aims to combine its hardware, software, and consulting services to help banks make the transition from paper-based operations to electronic services that use imaging. This move, it hopes, will give it a higher profile in the image market.
The company has been a leader in image processing. It was the first technology company to successfully install a check image processing system capable of handling the volumes generated by large banks. Its newest offerings add to the image processing product line.
Unisys has developed Image Retrieval and Information System, which is an image archiving system, and Image Remittance and Payment Application, an image-enabled remittance processing software package.
Company officials said both systems have been sold to banks, though they declined to disclose names since the deals have not closed.
The archiving system, or Iris, is a client/server application developed with Fiserv Inc. The technology is designed to allow banks to store digitized pictures of checks and other documents.
Many banks have balked at the high costs and operational disruptions of installing the most sophisticated of check image processing systems - those that handle the proof-of-deposit functions.
But, by contrast, the archiving systems are relatively cheap and can be broken down more easily for specific applications, experts said. "You can get in small and do subsets like corporate cash management and statements," said David Medeiros, a technology consultant with the Tower Group in Wellesley, Mass.
"Unisys is very strong in proof of deposit, but they recognize that it's a very costly technology."
Joe DeNatale, a director of Data Center Research with Clipper Group, which is also in Wellesley, approved of the new archiving technology, saying, "The fact that it has Fiserv and (Cincinnati Bell Information Systems) involvement is a plus."
Fiserv, a Milwaukee-based outsourcing firm, acquired Cincinnati Bell's image technology unit last year. Unisys has several relationships with Fiserv, including a hardware provider's role in Fiserv's outsourcing contract with Chase Manhattan Corp.
Unisys' other new product, the remittance processing software, is based on the Windows NT operating system.
The software represents Unisys' entry into a new business line, Mr. Medeiros said, adding that some may view the new product as an answer to increased competition in the check image processing market.
Mr. Medeiros said Unisys historically relied on third-party software providers for remittance processing systems.
But last May, Banctec Inc. announced a deal to buy Recognition International Inc. for over $180 million. The two companies together are strong in the remittance processing area, which may have worried Unisys, Mr. Medeiros said.
Despite some financial problems, Unisys officials are confident that their image systems will continue to be a source of strength in the future. And they plan to aggressively promote this idea.
"We haven't really touted ourselves as much as we probably should have," said Jeannine V. Thurman, a program manager with Unisys.
Unisys plans to commit more time and money to several core strengths, including the image area of their payment system programs. The company hopes this will help to improve the company's financial condition.