January 13, 2004

Check management package saves bank-and its clients-money.

National City (Cleveland, $123 billion in assets) formally launched its Web-based check management service for payables management in November. The system-which uses technology from Bottomline Technologies (Portsmouth, N.H.) and Hyland Software, Inc. (Westlake, Ohio)-includes functions such as paid check management, imaging, positive pay, reports and administration. While some providers offer elements of the package, "having all of the functions in one suite, we are unique in that way," says Mary Ann Francis, senior vice president at National City. "It is a one-stop suite of services that allows users to manage their payables better."

Before the launch, National City spent several months talking to customers about what they would want in a payables application. "We looked at the business processes our customers have or wanted to have in place," says Francis. In the fall of 2003, National City went into the pilot phase with 20 corporate clients, including Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (New York). The bank supports Guardian's mutual fund and variable annuity businesses.

Previously, Guardian had managed its payables in a server-based environment, utilizing silos of software for individual functions rather than one comprehensive package. "It was adequate at best," says James Nemeth, the Bethlehem, Pa.-based manager of equity accounting at Guardian.

Now, staffers in Guardian's accounting and treasury departments can use the system for activities such as positive-pay exceptions, check inquiries and stop payments. "It is in an all-in-one consolidated area on a Web platform that is very accessible," says Nemeth.

When other Guardian departments ask about the status of checks, Nemeth says, getting them an answer now takes his staff about half as much time as it did before the new system. "It saves my staff a lot of time," he adds. "I will be able to leverage them in other functions. It frees up resources."

The system hasn't yet been deployed to all of the possible endpoints. "We have not pushed it out to the operational units yet," according to Nemeth. "I do not know if we will."

The new system has also been a success for National City, which previously had five different platforms supporting these functions. "It is an opportunity," Francis says, "to not hire more people or to redeploy people to areas where we still need more support." Furthermore, having the system has brought new revenue opportunities for the bank, now that it's out of the trial phase. "We have had four to 10 set ups a week since then," not all preexisting customers of the bank, Francis reports.