Consolidation and execution: those are the two stepping stones to technology dominance - at least until the next disruptive thing comes along. While Viewpointe can't be considered dominant, it's looking pretty strong these days.
Locked in a competitive struggle akin to VCR vs. Beta, New York-based check imaging player Viewpointe can look back on 2008 and chalk up some significant victories. It has become the archivist for check images for 1,600 small and regional banks courtesy of a deal with Fiserv. It bought PaymentsNation in order to add settlement services for its image exchange and archive clients. It created a Web-based interface so its clients could exchange and share images rapidly, easily and securely.
Viewpointe, owned by Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, U.S. Bank, Sun Trust and IBM, is the largest provider of check archive and imaging exchange services in the U.S. As such, it competes with the likes of SVPCO and Metavante's Endpoint Exchange, which do not archive but rather rely on one-to-one exchange of electronic images between two banks. SVPCO also has indirect backing from the banking industry, and Metavante is a large veteran player, but as BB&T SVP Joe Brannan told BTN earlier this year, the share model seems to have intuition on its side in the marketplace. Of course, Brannan's bank also has bets on both the share and exchange models.
So Viewpointe is not sitting on its laurels. Over the summer the firm rolled out Internet connectivity for smaller institutions - those banks with check image volumes under 75 million a year - so they could hook into its Pointe2Pointe exchange service without worrying about install and maintenance overhead. "This new Internet connectivity option provides an easier, more economical way to get involved and reduces the demands on financial institutions' internal resources," Viewpointe chief strategy officer Diane Scott said when introducing the new linkup. The connection also offered a new way to plug into the firm's partnership with PaymentsNation, which offers ACH settlement. Viewpointe Archive Services followed this up by announcing it would acquire PaymentsNation - making for tighter integration and also, incidentally, installing the New York-based archiver on the voting body within Nacha, the electronics payments association and ACH rule-making body. "It effectively creates a huge number of FIs who could do on-we settling at much lower prices," says TowerGroup global payments director Andy Schmidt. Depending on how far Viewpointe chief executive Lou Buglioli goes in this direction, Viewpointe might well wind up challenging another bank joint venture, the ACH processing player Pariter Solutions. Whichever way this plays out - SVPCO, Pariter, Viewpointe - it looks like banks wind up ahead. That's probably the point.