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LAS VEGAS – Getting the real word out to consumers about Check 21 while implementing the changes internally are a couple key parts of one mega-bank’s approach to dealing with the new realities of check truncation. Wells Fargo, with $400 billion in assets, processes about one of every nine checks handled in the United States and is pushing ahead with image processing, its executive vice president for payment strategies, Mitch Christenson, said at a panel discussion Wednesday at the BAI Retail Conference & Expo in Las Vegas. Christenson cited five areas his bank would be concentrating on as it moved forward with Check 21: *Getting correct information to customers despite confusing or inaccurate media reports about Check 21, *Developing remote-capture strategies that take into account the risks involved in accepting images from “upstream”, *Completing the shift from paper to electronic clearing, *Developing standard formats and conforming to a common set of rules around image exchange, *Arriving at the end-game image-exchange model for the industry (exchange with image, exchange with image to follow, or exchange with image on demand). Christenson said Wells Fargo currently is testing connectivity across its vast network for an imaging system and should be launching a pilot soon. He also noted that financial institutions will have to keep the expensive ground and air system for transporting checks going until “the paper is gone.” Christenson also warned of potential roadblocks ahead such as patent issues that could spawn lawsuits over ownership of image-related processes such as converting checks to ACH transactions at the point of sale or over the phone.

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