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Maura Ammenheuser
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Online Bank Delivers Check Images to Customers

NetBank turns to experienced hand to manage its check archiving operations.

Struggling to cope with triple-digit growth, NetBank has turned to an experienced hand to manage its check archiving operations.

The all-Internet bank, which has doubled its size since February, is in the first year of a five-year imaging and storage contract with NCR.

Dayton, Ohio-based NCR was already handling NetBank's item processing, so going from sorting checks and capturing images to creating an image archive was a natural progression.

"What's been very important to us is providing our customers with the ability to look at those images online," said D.R. Grimes, CEO of Atlanta-based NetBank.

Outsourcing was relatively easy in this case: as a fairly new institution, NetBank wasn't wedded to legacy systems.

"They're not coming from a heavily leveraged conventional environment," said Tom Moore, national sales director of item processing outsourcing at NCR.

"It makes it easier for us," Grimes said, "but that wasn't an issue."

The real reason for outsourcing, he said, was NetBank's explosive growth: 250 percent both in the year ending in February 2001 and the year before that. NetBank serves 232,000 accounts and has $2.2 billion in assets.

"It would be prohibitively expensive for us to build all this technology, hardware and software, and try to run it ourselves," Grimes said, noting that check processing is more efficient at greater volumes.

The fact that NetBank has no brick-and-mortar presence doesn't eliminate the need for processing paper checks.

"A check is a check," Grimes said. "It's got to go through the check sorter."

NCR's image archive provides the bank with digital image storage and retrieval. Previously, customers who wanted to view a check had to contact the bank's customer service staff, who in turn retrieved the image from a database, copied it, then faxed or mailed it.

"This was obviously a very expensive transaction," said Grimes.

Now NetBank customers get images faster by clicking on the desired check number on their electronic statements. They can display, store or print check images at home.

Not only doesn't it require any effort by the bank, but it's instantaneous, Grimes said.

So far, NCR has easily kept up with the volume and provided nearly flawless service. The system's "performed great," Grimes said.

The only significant challenge was the need for NCR to re-capture check images stored in the database set up by NetBank's previous check imaging vendor, a regional provider. By August, however, NCR was providing the full gamut of check imaging services.

NCR may add electronic check presentment with online statements as the market demands, Moore said.

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