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When Check 21 became law in 2003, credit unions grumbled about the costs and time needed to implement the required imaging technology. Today, however, both corporates and natural person credit unions are crediting products like branch capture with improved efficiencies, decreased expenses and even revenue.The $5.4 billion American Airlines Federal Credit Union adjusted its approach to check processing shortly after Check 21 was passed by examining how the legislation would impact the credit union’s technology and finances, and it began seeking out imaging vendors early, said Satya Bhadriraju, manager of back-office processing.The Fort Worth-based institution serves American Airlines’ employees and other airline professionals nationwide.It immediately realized the technology could both increase efficiencies and cut costs so the early adopter implemented branch capture technology at all 43 branches by May 2007.The hardware, software and implementation required a $126,000 investment that paid for itself in five months thanks to $30,000 saved on courier fees and $105,000 worth of additional bank interest earned during that period, Bhadriraju said.“If they haven’t done it already, almost every credit union has image conversion on their strategic initiative list,” said Tony Kitt, Western Corporate Federal Credit Union executive vice president, member services.Kitt said about half of WesCorp’s members have converted from paper check to imaging processing, but the corporate has stepped up the pace in the past few months, converting twice as many members per month compared to earlier this year. WesCorp aims to have 90% of members processing checks by image capture within two years.First Corporate Credit Union announced it had completed its end-to-end electronic check processing initiative when it processed incoming returns from the Federal Reserve Bank June 4, the final step in eliminating paper and couriers. The event also marked a turning point on the balance sheet: First Corporate is now breaking even on check processing services for the first time in five years.The $407 million AEA Federal Credit Union saved thousands of dollars in courier costs utilizing FirstCorp’s program, said FirstCorp Chief Operating Officer Stacy Glidden.“Going 100% electronic has greatly improved our efficiency,” said AEAFCU Director of Accounting Sugey Villalobos.“With the early file, we are now able to process our returns and secure our funds the same day, rather than the following day, which reduces our exposure to losses. We have also been able to save on our courier costs and reduce our float.”–[email protected]

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