ZIFFPAGE TITLEBeyond Branch Banking

By Tom Steinert-Threlkeld  |  Posted 2005-09-07 Print this article Print

The online bank partnered with UPS to give its retail customers a place to deposit checks—and cut processing times to a day or two instead of a week.

Beyond Branch Banking

And QuickPost is economic "even if NetBank is the only bank that ever uses it," Ross says. The cost of setting up and maintaining the program, he asserts, is less than opening a single brick-and-glass bank branch.

Back on Main Street, NetBank customers may not notice the lack of brick, anyway. They still can get to their money. Even if only two teller machines in Atlanta take deposits for NetBank, the company operates a network of 8,000 cash-dispensing teller machines in convenience stores, groceries and other high-traffic locations.

It's also probably just a matter of time before those machines take deposits. In the Check21 era, deposit envelopes may disappear from teller machines. Customers will simply slide their checks into a receiving tray, which will capture an image of the check. The electronic version then becomes the official "check" and can be transmitted anywhere in the country for processing, according to Ross.

This approach should cut down on errors, by reducing the amount of times a piece of paper is interpreted and its contents typed by a bank clerk into a data-collection or transaction processing system. Alogent, a software company that is automating the process, estimates that errors surface in the handling of 3% of checks. If a bank is handling a million checks a day, "that adds up pretty quickly as a big, big expense," says Bob Izzo, Alogent's senior channel executive.

The mechanics of "truncating" checks and securely exchanging images instead are being worked out by a group of institutions known as the Financial Services Technology Consortium, which includes Citibank, Commerce Bank, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo.

And make no mistake: Bank customers are particular about how their deposits get handled. Even a process as simple as the drop-off at a UPS store can leave Erice a bit unsettled.

As Erice puts it: "A tiny part of me is uneasy about handing over my deposits to a 20-something-year-old clerk and wondering if my QuickPost envelope is ever opened when I leave the store."

Tom was editor-in-chief of Interactive Week, from 1995 to 2000, leading a team that created the Internet industry's first newspaper and won numerous awards for the publication. He also has been an award-winning technology journalist for the Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He is a graduate of the Harvard Business School and the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

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