BURLINGTON, Mass. -- Check 21 is now making house calls at EasCorp.
The $2 billion corporate is launching a service that allows consumers and small businesses to scan their checks themselves and deposit them through their credit union's home banking Web site.
Called Consumer Deposit Capture, the program is being offered to credit unions at a price point intended to allow CUs to offer it free for members using simple scanners at home and a low cost to small businesses.
"We think it's a first," said Alan Bernstein, EasCorp's senior vice president of marketing and strategic planning.
Once up and running, any member of a participating credit union who has an online banking account and a home desktop scanner can use it.
"We're taking advantage of years of experience with imaging coupled with software development skills and a very imaginative group of users who came to us earlier this year and said, 'Wouldn't it be nice if we could do this,'" Bernstein said.
Beta testing is now under way at two of them, fellow Bay State institutions Hanscom Federal Credit Union in Bedford and Digital Federal Credit Union in Marlborough.
The member signs on and accesses the service, which actually is an EasCorp-maintained page made to look and feel like the CU's other home banking pages.
"Then it just uses our EasyLink service, which all of our member CUs have for transacting business and communicating with us," Bernstein said.
The image file is checked for quality standards such as readability and any potential fraud problems, balanced and then released by the credit union to EasCorp for processing "in the stream of image cash letters we get from credits from everywhere else that they come from, including ATMs, teller windows and the mail," Bernstein said.
To prevent potential abuse problems, members have to be pre-cleared to use the service. "We also built tools and controls into the program to prevent member misuse" and duplicate detection systems are being considered, said George Dow, EasCorp's assistant vice president of member relations and product development.
EasCorp designed the program as a thin-client application, appropriate for a variety of end users, Bernstein said.
"It works well for consumers with only a few checks to deposit each month; but it is also well-suited for small-business owners who might deposit hundreds of checks a week," he said.
In addition to taking advantage of the paperless efficiencies provided by Check 21, providing convenience to home bankers in the CU's hometown and helping to retain their business as they roam is another plus, the program's first users say.
"We have more than 300,000 members, many of whom are spread across the country, 150,000 of whom are online banking users. They are fairly tech-savvy, so it's a natural fit for them and for us," said Craig Roy, vice president for support services at $3.5 billion Digital FCU.
Convenience is critical, adds Scott Post, senior vice president for strategy and delivery at $553 million Hanscom FCU.
"No matter how many branches you have, it's never enough. There are always members outside your reach or for whom the branches' operating hours aren't convenient," he said.
The Consumer Deposit Capture program is just the latest in a series of in-house development landmarks, Bernstein said.
For instance, the launch came as EasCorp also was celebrating "e-retirement," recognizing the completion of the process of converting 110 client credit unions from sending physical checks through trucks and couriers.
The 110 credit unions, representing 410 licenses when all the branches are included, are now running on EasCorp's propriety eDeposit check capture solution.
"We also have been participating in the Federal Reserve's FedReceipt program, and we believe we are the first corporate doing that, and we were one of Bank of America's first customers in their private image exchange program," Bernstein said.
"That's what enabled us to throw out all those paper sorters and check processing equipment out the window, figuratively speaking," he said. "These pieces of machinery cost us a fortune to maintain and you get very little benefit operating in the electronic world with them. Our maintenance contract alone was $10,000 a month, to say nothing of staff time and everything else that goes into supporting a paper infrastructure.
"And even better, whole new realms are opened up to us to be able to pass the value on to credit unions," said Bernstein, whose 300-member corporate CU now accepts image cash letters from 13 states.
"The geographic boundaries that limit you in the paper world, especially related to transportation, simply go away."