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Allfirst Bank Lowers Image Defect Ratio

Allfirst Bank records its lowest IDR, as measured by the amount of missing or blurred check images per checks processed.

Allfirst Bank has recorded its lowest image defect ratio (IDR), as measured by the amount of missing or blurred check images per checks processed.

The overall ratio for the month of September was about one in six million for Allfirst's Baltimore and Harrisburg capture sites. The Baltimore site had a near-perfect record, with only one missing image out of 31 million items captured.

On an average day, the bank processes about two million prime pass items at its two capture sites. IDR directly affects customer service and operational costs.

"We are proud of our defective image-to-prime pass items captured ratio," said Jackie Breeden, vice president of check processing at Baltimore-based Allfirst Bank. "Our IDR for September sets yet another record for our operation."

Breeden credits Sterling Commerce's Vector item processing system, which has improved communications between the camera, the sorter and the software.

"Vector makes it easier to identify error conditions which cause missing images. Our operators are now more accountable for missing images, and can take appropriate steps to re-scan an item when an error occurs." Enhanced jam screens make it easier for sorter operators to keep the work moving, Breeden added.

The Vector item processing solution captures incoming return items, plus captures and encodes outgoing bank-of-first-deposit (BOFD) items. It creates images of electronic check presentment (ECP) items, and sends and receives image data with electronic cash letters. Check images can be made available during item processing.

"We have experienced a decrease in the number of customer adjustments while continuing to meet our processing deadlines," Breeden continued. "The Vector Image Solution has exceeded our expectations in a major way."

Before installing an image management system, Allfirst was concerned about how to populate the image archive without creating a bottleneck. "As we looked at the process, we became convinced that the image management system was a very critical component of the overall image archive solution," said William G. Fitting, senior vice president, operation and processing services at $17.3 billion Allfirst.

Installation began in Aug. 2000. Population of the archive with images began the following January, and the image archive was in production mode by February. "To date, we have not experienced any synchronization problem at all," said Fitting. "Overall, it's a tremendous success-completed in an incredibly short length of time and not in the least inconvenient."

Allfirst's success with the project allowed it to completely remove microfilm cameras from its check operation in Aug. 2001, thereby decreasing the labor involved with microfilm-image retrieval.

Sterling Commerce's Vector Image Solution provides a common capture platform for all item image-processing requirements, allowing banks to perform local or remote prime pass capture, and bulk file and exception item pull sorts.

Efficiency ratios are a key consideration, according to David Medeiros, director, global payments, TowerGroup. "When implementing check image technology in any high-volume application, maintaining the incidence of defective images at a negligible rate is critical in attaining cost savings, productivity enhancements and return on technology investment."

Many high speed image management systems claim to achieve a missing image-to-items-processed ratio of 1:30,000-a figure which seems to have become acceptable in the industry, noted Rian Maloney, vice president of emerging image products at Sterling Commerce.

"But even such a seemingly high ratio can cause problems. Consider a bank processing three million items a day-that adds up to 100 missing images a day. Over a 90-day period, that bank would accumulate 9,000 missing images to deal with," Maloney said.

By verifying the quality of image data, Vector increases the level of confidence for banks as they populate an in-house archive with images captured by another institution. It incorporates operational risk management principles into its design, a major factor in eliminating missing images.

An image archive interface also is included in the Vector solution, so that images are archived within moments of capture and can be viewed on the Internet or a bank's intranet. These images become immediately available for other applications, and can be used for reject repair, reconcilement and fraud detection. They can also be integrated with the bank's ECP system.

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