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LATHRUP VILLAGE, Mich. — On the decision to offer members of Michigan First Credit Union remote deposit, Michael Poulos ticks off a number of motivators.For one, the recent spell of high gas prices was among the prompters of the new service, said Poulos, president/CEO of the $485 million credit union. Looking long term, being able to bring remote deposit can counter the limited branch network that some credit unions have compared to banks, he explained. Above all, it’s all about member convenience.“This allows us to level the playing field,” Poulos said. “Most people can get cash anywhere but they can’t deposit cash anywhere. A lot of people don’t like the whole putting the stamp on an envelope. It seems everyone likes things to be instant.”On Oct. 29, Michigan First launched EZ Scan&Deposit, an online service that allows consumers and businesses to scan checks from home or the office and directly deposit them into the credit union’s savings or checking account. Developed by CO-OP Financial Services and branded CO-OP My Deposit, Michigan First is one of the first credit unions in the state to offer the home-based banking product.Members log onto their Michigan First account online and scan the check using any TWAIN-compliant scanner. TWAIN is a standard that allows a computer to communicate with a graphic device, such as a scanner, according to the credit union. The scanned check image is then uploaded into the Michigan First secure database and is verified and deposited directly into the selected account.As of mid-November, 120 checks totaling $40,000 were deposited using the remote deposit service, Poulos said. In order to use the new offering, members need to be home banking users but they are not charged anything to use EZ Scan&Deposit. Michigan First earns 40 cents per each check transaction, Poulos said.“We never looked at it from a cost benefit standpoint. It’s one of those things that we want for members to make their lives easier.”Remote deposit applications have traditionally been targeted at businesses, and while Michigan First’s main thrust is to members, plans are in place to reach out to the small business community. Poulos said some early talks have started. However, the first step will be implementing processes to handle bulk check scanning, which businesses tend to do more of. The credit union is aiming to have the capability in place by the beginning of 2009.Meanwhile, 80% of Michigan First’s more than 70,000 members are already eligible for EZ Scan&Deposit, Poulos said. A check of the competition in the area revealed that very few local financial institutions are offering remote deposit, he added.“I’ve been in the business for some time and this is probably the product that I’ve received the most complaints on the fastest,” Poulos said.Still, he acknowledged for some, embracing a new way of depositing a check may take some time.“I think the difference is people’s mindset. They’re used to getting checks and handing them over to someone. Now they scan it in and write void. We’re asking them to tear it up after that,” Poulos said. “On our side, we have to get used to not seeing those checks.”The practice is certainly happening at a growing number of retail places, Poulos pointed out. While the new service is the latest industry innovation, Michigan First is still in the business of nurturing those “point of contact moments,” encouraging members to continue to visit the branches if they choose.–[email protected]

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