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During a recent discussion with a credit union CEO, I was reminded of the pre-Check 21 challenges that many institutions faced. Paper-based check processing brought a unique set of issues ranging from inclearings soaked in a rainstorm (which incidentally had to be ironed dry) to mechanical failures with the giant check sorter/reader machines. Item processing in a paper-based environment was downright messy, and at times, felt like a nightmare. As a result, these problems prompted many financial institutions to outsource item processing to third-party providers that could better capitalize on economies of scale. But the industry as a whole has made huge strides in electronic check processing and I would venture to say few institutions are still relying on paper to clear and process payments.

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