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HOUSTON – Southwest Corporate is one of the more diverse corporates around in terms of product offerings, but one product is really thriving of late -item processing. Although the number of checks being written is going down, Southwest Corporate said its item processing business grew by 14% last year, prompting it to expand its item processing facility in Houston. “The static group of credit unions we monitor showed a reduction of about 6% (in checks processed). The reason we’ve had the growth is the increase in the number of new credit union customers,” said Jody Beck, SVP of Operations at Southwest. Southwest processed close to 350 million items in 2002, a record for the corporate. Beck said CUs are attracted by its online imaging system which allows members to view cleared checks via their CU’s home banking system. She said Southwest has been offering this for almost two years, while many banks in its territory are just getting into it. Many of the credit unions converting to Southwest are former Fed bank clients. At one point, giving members the ability to view cleared checks online was a luxury, said Beck, but now it’s becoming a necessity. She said it’s amazing how the item processing business has changed. Southwest used to have to pull physical film copies of checks from a huge library – now it’s all electronic. “There’s just so much more automation. And for us the efficiencies because of our volume, have actually allowed us to make price adjustments downward,” she said. An example of new automation? “On the deposit side of the work, we actually have machines that read character recognition so they can read the dollar amounts for us,” she said. The corporate also has item processing facilities in Jacksonville, Fla., and Dallas. There’s a lot of business available in the Florida market said Beck, but it has become more competitive with Southeast Corporate now offering item processing. Southwest’s newly renovated Houston site is now approximately 10,000 square feet. She said the Houston facility is key strategically as it handles both the South Texas and South Louisiana markets. “Overall we have about 550 item processing clients, with 200 or so processed out of Houston.” -

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