Wachovia Corp., eager to show it has joined an elite group of institutions deploying check imaging systems, said it is processing more than one million items a day using the technology.

Officials at the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based banking company said they had passed the processing milestone last month, using a "proof-of-deposit" image check processing system from AT&T Global Information Solutions Corp.

"This achievement underscores the fact that imaging technology has become an integral part of our check processing system," said Robert C. Hill, senior vice president at Wachovia.

The event also was a major advance for AT&T Global Information, as it tries to sell more large banks on adopting its technology.

Unisys Corp. and International Business Machines Corp. have held the early lead in selling image-based, proof-of-deposit systems to regional and money-center banks.

The $39.1 billion-asset bank began putting its system into production in its check processing centers in Winston-Salem and Atlanta last summer.

The proof-of-deposit system electronically scans paper checks for encoding and balancing, vastly improving back-office efficiency. It also gives Wachovia the opportunity to offer value-added services to its corporate customers and consumers.

Wachovia officials said on one day in March their two check-sorting centers processed a total of 1.1 million items using the imaging system.

Since the introduction of the technology in the early 1990s, large banks have been slow to adopt check imaging, mainly due to its hefty price tag, which often runs into millions of dollars.

"We're finally getting past the perception that check imaging is leading-edge stuff," said Michael Visser, director if item processing at Dayton, Ohio-based AT&T Global Information.

Mr. Visser added that Wachovia's success proved that his company can compete effectively with Unisys and IBM for large-bank business.

"We've been recognized as doing very well in the community bank market," he said, noting that AT&T has installed more than 130 check-image systems in institutions with less than $2 billion of assets. "But we haven't been as well known as IBM and Unisys for check-imaging systems for big banks."

Indeed, four banks using Unisys' imaging system are now processing the largest volumes of checks, according to a recent study by the Tower Group, a Wellesley, Mass.-based technology consulting firm.

Barnett Banks Inc. of Jacksonville, Fla., Signet Banking Corp. of Richmond, Va., and Comerica Bank of Detroit, each process 2 million or more items a day, and Columbus, Ohio-based Huntington Bancshares is processing more than one million.

IBM's image proof-of-deposit system - which was the first on the market but was hampered by numerous development delays - is being used by four banks: Bank of Boston Corp., Barclays Bank PLC, Keycorp, and Mellon Bank Corp.

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