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MIDDLETOWN, Pa. – Mid-Atlantic Corporate FCU didn’t start its electronic bill payment business at the most opportune time. It was April 1999 and first and foremost on most credit unions’ minds wasn’t bill pay, but the dreaded Y2K glitch. Still Mid-Atlantic pushed on with the product and now it’s glad it did. Fast forward four years and you find Mid-Atlantic coming off its most successful year yet with its EBP business. It added 86 new contracts in 2003, the most ever in a single year. There are now 297 credit unions under contract with Mid-Atlantic. With all these credit union additions comes more end users. The number of end users was up an incredible 85% in 2003, with bill pay volume up 91% to the tune of 1.125 million bills paid. Things certainly clicked in 2003 said Jeff Stoner, Mid-Atlantic’s VP of Payment Services. Stoner said Mid-Atlantic has had a front row seat to the bill pay evolution, and what was first forecast may finally now be catching on. “Five years ago all your industry experts said this thing is going to take off like hot cakes. That didn’t happen. We instead have seen steady increases year after year,” said Stoner, who stresses that Mid-Atlantic, which offers the EBP through a CUSO, does not see itself as a technology provider. “We view ourselves as a payment processor not a technology company. We don’t offer home banking products, we partner with the data processing and home banking providers,” he said. One of the stats EBP providers like to showcase is what percentage of their payments are actually electronic. While bill pay may be automated on the user’s end, in many cases the payment is done the old-fashioned way through the EBP processor cutting and mailing a check. Stoner said Mid-Atlantic processes about 47% of payments electronically. It uses MasterCard’s payment system for the electronic payments. One of the headaches with bill pay is member inquiries into why a payment hasn’t posted yet. Mid-Atlantic has taken a policy not to deal directly with members, instead it deals with the credit unions. But Stoner said it’s the EBP processor’s duty to investigate fully any delayed or missing payments. “We’re aggressive. We proactively search our merchants, if someone is taking too long to process a payment we want to know why,” he said. Stoner said Mid-Atlantic has cut down on potential creditor errors by not sending check lists. In other words it cuts an individual check and sends it in a separate envelope for every bill payment. Some vendors will send one check that pays a number of different consumers’ bills to save money. So for instance if 1,000 people are paying AT&T, the vendor can send one big check and list all 1,000 account numbers. Stoner said he thinks this can lead to entry errors. Mid-Atlantic has been able to grow its programs by partnering with other corporates. Currently it partners with seven corporates – VACORP, Midwest Corporate, Louisiana Corporate, EasCorp, TriCorp, Corporate Central, and VolCorp. “There’s been a lot of good word of mouth,” said Stoner. While EBP isn’t going to bring Mid-Atlantic a lot of net income, it can help on the relationship side. “It’s a value-added product. What we find is that those that tend to use us for the payment services are more profitable. We become more of a primary financial for them.” [email protected]

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