After introducing check image statements late last year, executives at United Carolina Bank said that 95% of new customers and 50% of existing clients have opted for the service.

United Carolina, based in Whiteville, N.C., is a $2.8 billion-dollar holding company with 130 offices in North and South Carolina.

Its goals for the check image statement service -- where laser-printed images of checks are returned with statements instead of the actual paper items -- are twofold: to cut costs and to differentiate the bank in its highly competitive market.

Natural Test Group

United Carolina is using software called EasyBanc, which was developed by Cincinnati Bell Information Systems Inc. At United Carolina, EasyBanc is installed on an IBM mainframe and then operates in conjunction with an NCR 7780 check image capture device.

United Carolina executives named their image statement product EasyImage. They first tested and introduced EasyImage to their "check safekeeping" customers, a group of 56,000 accounts who already have canceled checks held at the bank instead of mailed back to them.

"Check safekeeping accounts don't want their checks anyway, so they were an ideal group to try out first," said Jim Hawkinson, a vice president at United Carolina Bank.

Following this limited test last December, the bank sent notices to all checking account customers describing the new product and indicating that it was being offered at no extra cost. Also included in the mailing was a copy of a sample image statement.

Customers were given the choice of receiving either 10 or 18 images per page.

Service Called Unique

"We're the first major bank in North Carolina to introduce an image statement product," said Mr. Hawkinson. "It's an important service to our customers that sets us apart from the competition."

As of April, over 78,000 United Carolina accounts have been converted to images -- half of checking account customers.

Mr. Hawkinson said it's too early to measure how much money the bank is saving, but he did indicate that United Carolina has met a key goal of cutting postage costs by reducing the weight of statements.

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