LARGO, Md. -- To check on the benefits of the much-ballyhooed Check 21 revolution, just check with Susan Wilhelm.
The IT manager at Money One Credit Union watches with satisfaction as 4,000 items or so a month are captured by scanner and sent for processing to EasCorp, the $1.9 billion corporate that provided the system.
"My background is in quality assurance and this project was my baby," said Wilhelm, who joined the $86 million CU two years ago after a stint at an imaging software company. "We're several months into it now, and it's been wonderful."
Image capture and processing has grown steadily since Check 21 kicked in, and really got legs in 2006 when volume increased nationally by 655% in a year, according to the Federal Reserve and the Electronic Check Clearing House Organization.
At Money One, cost savings were an immediate benefit, as was the ability to offer faster availability to funds, but Wilhelm said "there were little things about remote capture that we didn't expect, things that have benefited the entire credit union."
Having images electronically stored means they can easily be accessed from the credit union's network by anyone who needs them, and fraudulent items can be more easily stopped in process. Security also is enhanced since paper images no longer have to be transported and stored, and items are sent throughout the day, so they're not around physically in case of fire or flood.
Money One went with the eDeposit service from Massachusetts-based EasCorp after some looking around, Wilhelm said.
"We looked at a lot of different vendors, and some of them required a lot of IT intervention," she said. "With our EasCorp deployment all we did was go through some accounting issues the first week, made sure everyone understood what entries looked like, and then made sure tellers were trained and comfortable. We could easily have done it in two weeks."
One scanner and one dedicated PC, and some network storage space, serve as the infrastructure for the system, with another scanner bought in anticipation of future growth.
In fact, the longest part of the implementation had little to do with technology, Wilhelm said. "It was getting the courier contract canceled. We had to work through that obligation to the end."
The courier costs were high enough that, in terms of ROI, moving to the Check 21 system paid for the second scanner in about two months.
There was a learning curve, of course.
"The hardest part was training the tellers on the MICR line. I'd probably start that training earlier and steer staff more toward the help files included in the eDeposit software."
She also advises that including sending items for transmission throughout the business day be part of the process from the beginning of the project.
"While staff may want to hold items until the end of the day, it really helps the entire process--balancing, scanning, transmitting--when it's done several times during the day," she said.
Looking back, it probably wasn't necessary to ease into the program as slowly as Money One did. "We imaged some checks while still sending some to the bank. But I'm kind of conservative that way. I guess we'd do it quicker now, looking back and knowing the program works so well.
"The availability of funds, the ability to address and decrease fraud, the cost savings and, just being selfish from the IT side, having a product that works and doesn't require IT resources on a regular basis...it's been good," Wilhelm said.